Closer (Joy Division album)

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Joy Division Closer.jpg
Studio album by Joy Division
Released 18 July 1980
Recorded 18–30 March 1980
Studio Britannia Row Studios, Islington, London, England
Length 44:16
Label Factory
Producer Martin Hannett
Joy Division chronology
Unknown Pleasures

Closer is the second and final studio album by the English rock band Joy Division. It was released on 18 July 1980 on Factory Records, following the May 1980 suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. The album was produced by Martin Hannett and contains a more layered and austere sound than its predecessor, Unknown Pleasures, with synthesizers and studio effects now serving a prominent role. No singles were released from the album. After the posthumous release of Joy Division's only hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order.

Today, Closer is widely recognised a seminal post-punk release. According to critic Ned Raggett, "Joy Division were at the height of their powers on Closer [...] rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here."[1]

Writing and recording[edit]

Unlike the tracks on "Unknown Pleasures" which were written well before the album, had been played live many times and were fully formed before recording, the material for "Closer" was put together just before or during the band's time in the studio.[3] Most songs were written by jamming in their practice room.[4] Regarding the album's lyrical content, Sumner remarked, "We’d go to rehearsals and sit around and talk about really banal things. We’d do that until we couldn’t talk about banal things any more, then we’d pick up our instruments and record into a little cassette player. We didn’t talk about the music or the lyrics very much. We never analysed it."[5]

Closer was produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral".[6] However, as with their debut album Unknown Pleasures, both Hook and Sumner were unhappy with Hannett's work. Hook later complained that the track "Atrocity Exhibition" was mixed on one of his days off, and when he heard the final product was disappointed that the abrasiveness of his guitar part had been laden with effects and toned down. He wrote; "I was like, head in hands, oh fucking hell, its happening again. Unknown Pleasures number two...Martin [Hannett] had melted the guitar with his Marshall Time Waster. Made it sound like somebody strangling a cat, and to my mind, absolutely killed the song. I was so annoyed with him and went in and gave him a piece of my mind but he just turned around and told me to fuck off".[7]

The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard was an influence on the album, and the novel shares its title with the opening track.[8]


The album cover was designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, with photography by Bernard Pierre Wolff. The photograph on the cover is of the Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy. In a 2007 documentary on the band, designer Peter Saville commented that he, upon learning of singer Ian Curtis's suicide, expressed immediate concern over the album's design as it depicted a funeral theme, remarking "we've got a tomb on the cover of the album!"

Closer was released on 18 July 1980, through the Factory Records label, as a 12" vinyl LP. It reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and spent four weeks at number 1 in Australia. It also peaked at number 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. It claimed the number one slot on NME Album of the Year and Colour Radio 4IP's Album of the Century. The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still, was remastered and re-released in 2007. As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster comes packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London.

Factory boss Tony Wilson was pleased with the final album and predicted it would be a commercial success. Sumner recalled him saying at the time, "You know Bernard, this time next year you’ll be lounging by a swimming pool in LA with a cocktail in your hand." Sumner was less optimistic and "just thought it was the most utterly ridiculous thing anyone had ever said to me."[9]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[1]
Christgau's Record Guide A–[10]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[11]
Q 5/5 stars[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[13]
Smash Hits 8.5/10[14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 10/10[15]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[16]
Uncut 5/5 stars[17]

At the time of release, Sounds critic Dave McCullough wrote that there were "dark strokes of gothic rock" on Closer.[18] At the end of 1980, it was voted the 22nd best record of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[19] Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, deemed the album an improvement over Unknown Pleasures in a retrospective review: "Curtis's torment is less oppressive here because it's less dominant--the dark, roiling, off-center rhythms have a life of their own. And if last time the dancier material had hooks, this time even the dirges have something closely resembling tunes.[10]

Reviewing the album for Smash Hits in 1980, Alastair Macaulay described the album as an "exercise in dark controlled passion" and said that music "stands up on its own as the band's epitaph".[14] In their review of the 2007 reissue of the album, Pitchfork Media described the album as "even more austere, more claustrophobic, more inventive, more beautiful and more haunting than its predecessor", calling it "Joy Division's start-to-finish masterpiece; a flawless encapsulation of everything the group sought to achieve."[11]


The album has been highly acclaimed, and is often cited as Joy Division's finest work. Pitchfork listed Closer as the 10th best album of the 1980s.[20] It was placed 72nd on NME's list of the one-hundred greatest British albums ever. In 2003, the album was placed at number 157 on Rolling Stone's list of the five-hundred greatest albums ever.[21] In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 8 in its list of the forty best albums of the 1980s.[22] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 7 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[23] Sonic Seducer listed it 2nd in their list "10 Key Albums for the Gothic Scene".[24]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Atrocity Exhibition"   6:06
2. "Isolation"   2:53
3. "Passover"   4:46
4. "Colony"   3:55
5. "A Means to an End"   4:07
Side B
No. Title Length
6. "Heart and Soul"   5:51
7. "Twenty Four Hours"   4:26
8. "The Eternal"   6:07
9. "Decades"   6:10
Total length:

Note: the original vinyl disc did not indicate which was side A and which was side B, so the order here was only established at the time of the CD re-release.


Joy Division


  1. ^ a b c Raggett, Ned. "Joy Division, Closer". All Music. Retrieved 23 August 2015
  2. ^ "20 best: Goth records ever made". Fact. 
  3. ^ Sumner, 128
  4. ^ Sumner, 78
  5. ^ "Most Important Albums Of NME's Lifetime - Joy Division, 'Closer'". Retrieved July 5, 2015
  6. ^ Klien, Joshua. "Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures". 29 October 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2015
  7. ^ Hook, 42
  8. ^ "J. G. Ballard – Times Online". 5 January 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Nicolson, Barry. "The 60 Most Important Albums Of NME's Lifetime". NME, August 2, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2014
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1990). "Joy Division". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. p. 222. ISBN 067973015X. 
  11. ^ a b Klein, Joshua (29 October 2007). "Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures / Closer / Still Album Reviews". Pitchfork. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (October 2007). "[Q magazine review]". Q. No. 255. 
  13. ^ "Joy Division: Album Guide | Rolling Stone Music". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Macaulay, Alastair. "Albums". Smash Hits. No. 24 July – 6 August 1980. p. 29. 
  15. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York: Vintage Books. p. 203. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. ISBN 978-06-7975-574-6. 
  16. ^ Downer, Adam (10 April 2006). "Joy Division Closer review". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Joy Division – Reissues – Review –". Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  18. ^ McCullough, Dave (26 July 1980). "Closer to the Edge [Closer -review]". Sounds. Young men in dark silhouettes, some darker than others, looking inwards, looking out, discovering the same horror and describing it with the same dark strokes of gothic rock. 
  19. ^ "Pazz & Jop 1980: Critics Poll". The Village Voice (New York). 1981. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Carr, Eric (20 November 2002). "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 157 | Joy Division - Closer". Rolling Stone. 2003. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "[Unknown title]". Q. No. 241. August 2006. 
  23. ^ "Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  24. ^ Gnuch, Kym (2012). "10 Alben mit Schlüsselcharakter für die Gothic-Szene". Sonic Seducer (in German). Vol. Special edition no. 1. p. 67. 


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