Joy Division - Closer (Vinyl LP)

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In retrospect, Closer, the second and final album by this Mancunian band, seems to point straight at singer Ian Curtis's suicide, which happened a few months before it was released. The band's reverberating mesh of minor-key lines and Curtis's bass voice are gloomy enough on their own, and attention to the words reveals references to blacker-than-black stories by JG Ballard and Joseph Conrad; the void and its terrors were splitting Curtis apart from the inside. "I put my trust in you," he sings, and his voice leaves no doubt that that trust has been betrayed. But the music, grim and powerful as it is, points to the direction the surviving members took as New Order incorporating the mechanical gravity of club rhythms.

One of the greatest cliches anyone could ever come out with in talking about rock music is to call Joy Division a 'depressing' band. I remember people used to say it back in the 80s, and I'm surprised people aren't sick of that adjective yet. To me what is truly depressing is the junk food music which constitutes the vast majority of the Top 40 charts these days. There you will see record companies trying to flog terrible music with lots of boobs, muscles, tight-fitting outfits, sports-cars and anything else they can think of to make kiddies want to buy it. They sure aren't going to do it on the strength of the music alone. Popular music becomes a cynical exercise in marketing, rather than something to inspire you or make you think or feel something new.

Now I understand that the subject matter is dark here, but it is inaccurate to say that it is just maudlin self-pity. If you listen closely to Closer, you will soon realize that Curtis' lyrics aren't just about his own pain. The horror show of history is put on display on the album-opener Atrocity Exhibition and the angry, abrasive Colony. Furthermore, like Radiohead after them, Joy Division use technology to make music about the alienating effects of technology. Electronica, distorted guitars and machine beats create an eerie, alienating post-industrial soundscape.

Yet for all the innovation, Joy Division were a rock band and they possess virtues common to other great rock musicians. Twenty Four Hours has driving rhythms and brilliantly layered guitar effects, and Decades and The Eternal have hauntingly beautiful melodies. This is an iconoclastic record, a challenging record, but it is a masterpiece nonetheless.

Reviewed By: Paddlesteamer

A1 Atrocity Exhibition
A2 Isolation
A3 Passover
A4 Colony
A5 A Means To An End
B1 Heart And Soul
B2 Twenty Four Hours
B3 The Eternal
B4 Decades


"Joy Division Closer
180gm heavyweight vinyl
Replicating original album artwork,
cut from the 2007 remasters