Closer (Joy Division album)

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Closer
Joy Division Closer.jpg
Studio album by
Released18 July 1980
Recorded18-30 March 1980
Studio Britannia Row Studios, Islington
Genre
Length44:16
Label Factory
Producer Martin Hannett
Joy Division chronology
Unknown Pleasures
(1979)
Closer
(1980)
Still
(1981)

Closer is the second and final studio album by English rock band Joy Division, released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records. [1] Produced by Martin Hannett, it was Joy Division's first posthumous album and was released two months after the suicide of the band's lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Joy Division English rock band

Joy Division were an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The group consisted of vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris.

Factory Records British record label

Factory Records was a Manchester-based British independent record label, started in 1978 by Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus, which featured several prominent musical acts on its roster such as Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, the Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, Northside, and (briefly) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and James. Like the 4AD label, Factory Records used a creative team which gave the label and the artists recording for it a particular sound and image. The label employed a unique cataloguing system that gave a number not just to its musical releases, but to artwork and other objects.

Contents

The album reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart [2] and peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. [3] Closer was also named NME Album of the Year. [4] [5] It was remastered and re-released in 2007. [1] Today, Closer is widely recognised as a seminal release of the post-punk era. [6]

The Official Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales and audio streaming in the United Kingdom. It was published for the first time on 22 July 1956 and is compiled every week by the Official Charts Company (OCC) on Fridays. It is broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and published in Music Week magazine, and on the OCC website.

<i>NME</i> Album of the Year

Every December, British music magazine NME compiles a list of what it considers the best albums of the year. It was started in 1974. The list is usually published in one of the issues sold before Christmas – in 2006 it was published in the issue for December the 9th. The companion list is NME single of the year.

Post-punk is a broad type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, in which artists departed from the simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock to adopt a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and diverse influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with sources including electronic music and black styles like dub, funk, and disco; novel recording and production techniques; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. These communities produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines.

Following the release of the non-album single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order.

Love Will Tear Us Apart single

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" is a song by English rock band Joy Division, released in June 1980. Its lyrics were inspired by lead singer Ian Curtis's marriage problems and frame of mind before his suicide in May 1980.

New Order (band) British rock band

New Order are an English rock band formed in 1980 by vocalist and guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris. The band formed after the demise of Joy Division, following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis; they were joined by Gillian Gilbert on keyboards later that year. New Order's integration of post-punk with electronic and dance music made them one of the most acclaimed and influential bands of the 1980s. They were the flagship band for Manchester-based independent record label Factory Records and its nightclub The Haçienda, and worked in long-term collaboration with graphic designer Peter Saville.

Writing and recording

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 "24 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". [7] Most songs were written or structured during jam sessions in the band's practice room. [8]

Jam session

A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To "jam" is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also 'free flow sessions', are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. Both styles can be used simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator or host acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be broadcast live on radio or TV or edited and released to the public.

"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. [9]

Bernard Sumner English musician

Bernard Sumner is an English singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. He is a founding member of both Joy Division and New Order and is widely credited with the latter band's move towards electronica and synthpop.

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." [10]

Closer was recorded between 18–30 March 1980 at Britannia Row Studios in Islington, London. [1] It was produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral." [11] 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 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." [12]

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. [13]

Release

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. [14] The image itself was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff in 1978. 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!" [n 1]

Closer was released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records, as a 12" vinyl LP. The album reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart. [16] It also peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. [17] Closer was also named NME Album of the Year. [18] [19] The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still , was remastered and re-released in 2007. [1] As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster was packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London Union. [1]

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." [10]

Reception

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [20]
Christgau's Record Guide A− [21]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [22]
NME 10/10 [23]
Pitchfork 10/10 [11]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [25]
Select 5/5 [26]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 10/10 [27]
Uncut Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [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 cliched, standardised stances; that's what makes Closer and Joy Division so important." [31]

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 Tomba Famiglia Appiani (Cimitero di Staglieno).jpg
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

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] 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die defines Closer a "quantum leap" in terms of progression when compared to the band's debut album. [15] 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." [11]

Legacy

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" [34] and receiving appraisal from artists such as George Michael. [35] The album was voted number 1 in the 1980 Albums of the Year poll conducted by music magazine NME , [36] and would be listed as number 157 upon the Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". [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] [38] In 2002, the American online magazine Pitchfork listed Closer as the 10th best album to be released in the 1980s. [41] [38]

The album placed at number 72 on NME 's list of the 100 greatest British albums ever to be released. [38] 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] [38] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 7 upon their compiled list of the best albums of the 1980s. [43] [38]

Track listing

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

Side one
No.TitleLength
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 two
No.TitleLength
6."Heart and Soul"5:51
7."Twenty Four Hours"4:26
8."The Eternal"6:07
9."Decades"6:10
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)
No.TitleLength
1."Dead Souls" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:59
2."Glass" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)3:42
3."A Means to an End" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:01
4."Twenty Four Hours" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:06
5."Passover" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:54
6."Insight" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:01
7."Colony" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:04
8."These Days" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:17
9."Love Will Tear Us Apart" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)3:14
10."Isolation" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)4:42
11."The Eternal" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)6:30
12."Digital" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)3:14
Total length:51:44

Personnel

Joy Division

Production

Notes

  1. 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. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Ian Curtis English musician and songwriter

Ian Kevin Curtis was an English singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division and recorded two albums with the group: Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980).

Peter Hook English musician and author

Peter Hook is an English singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. He is best known as the bassist and co-founder of English rock bands Joy Division and New Order.

<i>Unknown Pleasures</i> 1979 studio album by Joy Division

Unknown Pleasures is the debut studio album by English rock band Joy Division, released on 15 June 1979 by Factory Records. The album was recorded and mixed over three successive weekends at Stockport's Strawberry Studios in April 1979, and was produced by Martin Hannett, who incorporated a number of unconventional production techniques into the group's sound. The cover artwork was designed by artist Peter Saville, using a data plot of signals from a radio pulsar. It is the only Joy Division album released during lead singer Ian Curtis's lifetime.

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"Ceremony" is a song by Joy Division, released as New Order's debut single in 1981. The song and its B-side, "In a Lonely Place", were written and recorded as Joy Division prior to the death of Ian Curtis. Both were re-recorded and carried over to Joy Division's re-formation under the name New Order.

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<i>Still</i> (Joy Division album) 1981 compilation album by Joy Division

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"Isolation" is a 1980 song appearing on the post-punk band Joy Division's second and final album, Closer. The song is based upon an electronic drum beat by Stephen Morris, accompanied by a high-pitched keyboard line by Bernard Sumner. Midway through the song, a rushing drum and hi-hat motif come in, propelling the song toward its dramatic end.

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"New Dawn Fades" is a song from the 1979 debut album by Joy Division. The song opens with a backwards and heavily modified sample from previous song, "Insight", presumably added by Martin Hannett, post-production. The song relies on an ascending guitar riff by Bernard Sumner played against a descending bass riff by Peter Hook. The song uses the same progression throughout, but grows in intensity as the song progresses, reaching its peak with Ian Curtis singing "Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else", and ending with a guitar solo. The song closes side one of Unknown Pleasures. It's also one of few Joy Division songs with two distinct guitars playing, one distorted and one a clean electric guitar picking notes from the guitar chords.

The discography of English rock band Joy Division consists of two studio albums, four live albums, twelve compilation albums, three extended plays, and five singles. The list does not include material performed by former members of Joy Division that was recorded as New Order or related side projects.

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"Atrocity Exhibition" is a 1980 song by Joy Division, the opening track on their second and final album Closer. It was produced by Martin Hannett, and recorded at Pink Floyd's Britannia Row Studios, London.

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Sources