Closer (Joy Division album)

Closer[n 1] is the second and final studio album by English rock band Joy Division, released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records.[4] Produced by Martin Hannett, it was released two months after the suicide of the band's lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis. The album reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart[5] and peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand in September 1981.[6] Closer was also named NME Album of the Year.[7][8] It was remastered and re-released in 2007.[4]

Studio album by
Released18 July 1980 (1980-07-18)
Recorded18–30 March 1980
StudioBritannia Row (Islington)
ProducerMartin Hannett
Joy Division chronology
Unknown Pleasures

Today, Closer is widely recognised as a seminal release of the post-punk era.[9] Following the release of the non-album single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order.

Composition and recording edit

The songs on Closer were drawn from two distinct periods. The earlier guitar-driven compositions were written during the latter half of 1979: "Atrocity Exhibition", "Passover", "Colony", "A Means to an End" and "Twenty Four Hours". All were played live during that year, with some being recorded for various radio sessions. The album's other songs were written in early 1980, and included more prominent use of synthesisers: "Isolation", "Heart and Soul", "The Eternal" and "Decades".[10] Most songs were written or structured during jam sessions in the band's practice room.[11]

"While we were working on Closer, Ian said to me that doing this album felt very strange, because he felt that all his words were writing themselves. He also said that he had this terrible claustrophobic feeling that he was in a whirlpool and being pulled down, drowning."

Bernard Sumner, recollecting on Ian Curtis's mindset during the recording sessions for Closer. October 2007.[12]

Regarding the album's lyrical content, Bernard Sumner recollected: "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."[13]

Closer was recorded between 18 and 30 March 1980 at Britannia Row Studios in Islington, London.[4] It was produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral."[14] However, as with their debut album, both Hook and Sumner were unhappy with Hannett's work. Peter Hook later complained that the track "Atrocity Exhibition" was mixed on one of his days off, and when he heard the final product he 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, it's 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."[15]

The 1970 collection of "condensed novels" The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard was an influence on the album, and shares its title with the opening track.[16]

Release edit

The Appiani family tomb, as seen in the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno, Italy. Sculpted by Demetrio Paernio in 1910. A photograph of this tomb adorns the cover of Closer

The album cover was designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, with a photograph of the Appiani family tomb in Genoa's Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno adorning much of the sleeve. The photograph was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff in 1978.[17][18] In a 2007 documentary on the band, designer 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!"[n 2]

Closer was released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records, as a vinyl LP. The album reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart.[5] It also peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand in September 1981.[6] Closer was also named NME Album of the Year.[7][8] The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still, was remastered and re-released in 2007.[4] As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster was packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London Union.[4]

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."[13]

Critical reception edit

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [20]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[21]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [22]
Q     [24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [25]
Select     [26]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[27]
Uncut     [28]

At the time of release, Sounds critic Dave McCullough wrote that there were "dark strokes of gothic rock" on Closer. He described the album as "breathtaking rock music, a peak of current peaks, a sharing of something that's in [...] others at this time, but at the same time defining those black notions and leaving them unmatched."[29] Writing for Smash Hits, Alastair Macaulay described the album as an "exercise in dark controlled passion" and wrote that its music "stands up on its own as the band's epitaph".[30] Writing for Melody Maker, Paolo Hewitt described the album as "probably some of the most irresistible dance music we'll hear this year [and] a far cry for sure from the almost suffocating claustrophobic world of the debut album," adding that "the best (and most subversive?) rock music has always dealt head-on with emotions and thought rather than clichéd, standardised stances; that's what makes Closer and Joy Division so important."[31]

At the end of 1980, Closer was voted the 22nd best record of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[32] 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."[21] Rolling Stone's Mikal Gilmore, in a 1981 profile of the band's work, wrote: "The music turns leaden, gray and steady because it means to fulfill a vision of a world where suffering is unremitting and nothingness is quiescent."[33]

A book titled 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, published in 2005, Closer is defined as a "quantum leap" in terms of progression when compared to the band's debut album.[19] According to Colin Larkin, Closer has since been "deservedly regarded by many critics as the most brilliant rock album of the 80s"; Larkin himself found the record flawless, writing in his Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2011) that it showed Joy Division at their creative peak and "maturity in every area" of their music.[22] In his review of the 2007 reissue of the album, Pitchfork critic Joshua Klein 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."[14]

Legacy edit

Closer has been highly acclaimed, and is often cited as Joy Division's finest work, being considered by music critics such as Mark Fisher to be "the crown jewel of post-punk"[9] and receiving praise from artists such as George Michael.[34] The album was voted number 1 in the 1980 Albums of the Year poll conducted by music magazine NME,[35] and would be listed as number 157 in Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, maintaining the rank in the 2012 revision, and dropping to number 309 in the 2020 edition.[36][37][38]

By 1982 Closer had sold over 250,000 copies worldwide, with the posthumous single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" having also sold over 160,000 copies.[39] In 1995 Closer was ranked one of the top 100 alternative albums ever to be released by Spin magazine (placing at number 69).[40] In 2002, the American online magazine Pitchfork listed Closer as the 10th best album to be released in the 1980s.[41]

The album placed at number 72 on NME's list of the 100 greatest British albums ever to be released.[citation needed] In addition, Q magazine placed Closer at number 8 in a list compiled of the 40 greatest albums to be released in the 1980s.[42] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 7 upon their compiled list of the best albums of the 1980s.[43] In 2020, Rolling Stone included Closer in their "80 Greatest albums of 1980" list.[44]

Track listing edit

All tracks are written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner

Side one
1."Atrocity Exhibition"6:06
5."A Means to an End"4:07
Side two
1."Heart and Soul"5:51
2."Twenty Four Hours"4:26
3."The Eternal"6:07
Total length:44:16

Note: the original vinyl disc only contained a small etching on the disk marking the A and B sides.

2007 CD remaster bonus disc (live at the University of London Union, 8 February 1980)
1."Dead Souls"4:59
3."A Means to an End"4:01
4."Twenty Four Hours"4:06
8."These Days"4:17
9."Love Will Tear Us Apart"3:14
11."The Eternal"6:30
Total length:51:44

Personnel edit

Joy Division

  • Ian Curtis – vocals, guitar (track 6),[45] melodica (track 9)
  • Bernard Sumner – guitar (all except tracks 1 and 6), bass guitar (track 1), synthesizers (tracks 2, 6, 8, and 9)
  • Peter Hook – bass guitar (all except track 1), guitar (track 1), six-string bass guitar (tracks 3, 6, and 8)
  • Stephen Morris – drums (all except tracks 2 and 8), electronic drums (tracks 2, 4, 8, 9), percussion (all except track 2)


Charts edit

Chart performance for Closer
Chart (1980–1981) Peak
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[46] 3
UK Albums (OCC)[47] 6
Chart (2017–2020) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[48] 68
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[49] 124
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[50] 27
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[51] 13
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)[52] 13
Irish Albums (OCC)[53] 31
Italian Albums (FIMI)[54] 31
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[55] 23
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[56] 43
Scottish Albums (OCC)[57] 4
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[58] 39
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[59] 23

Certifications edit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[60] Gold 100,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.

Notes edit

  1. ^ Pronounced /ˈkləʊsə/, as in "closer to the centre".[2][3]
  2. ^ The decision to have this photograph adorn the front cover of Closer had been agreed to by all four members of the band; the sleeve itself was designed prior to Curtis's suicide.[19]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Sande, Kiran (2 November 2010). "20 best: Goth records ever made". Fact. p. 1. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  2. ^ Morley, Paul (2015). Joy Division: Piece by Piece. Plexus Publishing. p. 168. ISBN 9780859658812 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Peter Hook on Joy Division's Closer. Backspin. Yahoo!. 12 April 2017. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Joy Division – discography". Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Closer | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 21 April 2021. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b " – Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart"". Top 40 Singles. Archived from the original on 22 May 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b Board, Patricia (2 December 2010). "In+1980+we+went+%20for+%20Joy+Division’s+‘Closer"’" "NME's albums of the year, 1974–2011". NME. Archived from "In+1980+we+went+%20for+%20Joy+Division’s+‘Closer"’" the original on 3 November 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  8. ^ a b NME staff (10 October 2016). "1980 Best Albums And Tracks Of The Year". NME. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  9. ^ a b Fisher, Mark (29 August 2007). "Stealing Fire: The Pop Group's 'Y' LP". Fact. Archived from the original on 18 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  10. ^ Sumner 2014, p. 128.
  11. ^ Sumner 2014, p. 78.
  12. ^ "Dark star: The final days of Ian Curtis by His Joy Division Bandmates". The Independent. 6 October 2007. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b Nicolson, Barry (2 August 2012). "Most Important Albums Of NME's Lifetime – Joy Division, Closer". NME. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Klein, Joshua (29 October 2007). "Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures / Closer / Still". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  15. ^ Hook 2013, p. 42.
  16. ^ "J. G. Ballard – Times Online". The Times. 5 January 2008. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  17. ^ Jones, Jonathan (25 February 2009). "In pictures: Jonathan Jones's favourite album covers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  18. ^ "Peter Saville, Martyn Atkins, Bernard Pierre Wolff. Album cover for Joy Division, Closer. 1980". Museum of Modern Art. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  19. ^ a b Dimery, Robert, ed. (2011) [2005]. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Cassell Illustrated. p. 462. ISBN 978-1-844-03714-8.
  20. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Closer – Joy Division". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 23 July 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  21. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1990). "Joy Division: Closer". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. p. 222. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  22. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (2011). "Joy Division". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. pp. 509–11. ISBN 978-0-857-12595-8.
  23. ^ "Joy Division: Closer". NME. 3 July 1993. p. 36.
  24. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (October 2007). "Joy Division: Closer". Q. No. 255.
  25. ^ Gross, Joe (2004). "Joy Division". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 442–43. ISBN 0-743-20169-8.
  26. ^ Maconie, Stuart (September 1993). "That Was the Bleak That Was". Select. No. 39. p. 95.
  27. ^ McDonnell, Evelyn (1995). "Joy Division". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 203–04. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  28. ^ Mueller, Andrew (9 October 2007). "Joy Division – Reissues". Uncut. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  29. ^ McCullough, Dave (26 July 1980). "Closer to the Edge". 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.
  30. ^ Macaulay, Alastair (24 July – 6 August 1980). "Joy Division: Closer". Smash Hits. Vol. 2, no. 15. p. 29.
  31. ^ Hewitt, Paolo (26 July 1980). "Joy Division: Closer (Factory Records FACT XXV)". Melody Maker. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016 – via Rock's Backpages.
  32. ^ "Pazz & Jop 1980: Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. 9 February 1981. Archived from the original on 6 June 2021. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  33. ^ Gilmore, Mikal (28 May 1981). "Closer". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  34. ^ "Watch George Michael and Morrissey discuss Joy Division on a 1984 episode of 'Eight Days A Week'". 27 December 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  35. ^ " End Of Year Lists 1981..." Archived from the original on 19 November 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  36. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 157 | Joy Division – Closer". Rolling Stone. 2003. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  37. ^ "Rolling Stone – The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2012)". Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  38. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 22 September 2020. Archived from the original on 1 October 2020. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  39. ^ McNally, Cyrus (13 February 2001). "Joy Division's Ian Curtis brought goth to the mainstream". The Daily Bruin. Los Angeles, California: University of California, Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  40. ^ "100 Alternative Albums". Spin. December 1995. Archived from the original on 29 October 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  41. ^ Carr, Eric (20 November 2002). "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  42. ^ "80 best records of the 80's". Q. No. 241. August 2006.
  43. ^ "Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  44. ^ "The 80 Greatest Albums of 1980 What came out of all this was, arguably, the greatest year for great albums ever". Rolling Stone. 11 November 2020. Archived from the original on 20 January 2022. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  45. ^ Sumner 2014, pp. 79–80.
  46. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  47. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  48. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  49. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  50. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  51. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  52. ^ "Album Top 40 slágerlista – 2020. 30. hét" (in Hungarian). MAHASZ. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  53. ^ "Official Irish Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  54. ^ "Album – Classifica settimanale WK 30 (dal 17.07.2020 al 23.07.2020)" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Archived from the original on 18 March 2020. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  55. ^ "Oficjalna lista sprzedaży :: OLiS - Official Retail Sales Chart". OLiS. Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  56. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  57. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  58. ^ "Top 100 Albumes – Semana 30: del 17.7.2020 al 23.7.2020" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  59. ^ " – Joy Division – Closer". Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  60. ^ "British album certifications – Joy Division – Closer". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 21 July 2022.

Sources edit

Further reading edit

External links edit