In retrospect, the second and final album by this Manchester postpunk 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-... more »key lines and Curtis's tremorous bass voice are doomy enough on their own, and attention to the words reveals references to blacker-than-black stories by J.G. 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. --Douglas Wolk« less
In retrospect, the second and final album by this Manchester postpunk 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 tremorous bass voice are doomy enough on their own, and attention to the words reveals references to blacker-than-black stories by J.G. 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. --Douglas Wolk
(4.5 stars) Depression never sounded so good. Love the cover
finulanu | Here, there, and everywhere | 11/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, picture The Doors. Then, picture the Talking Heads under the direction of Brian Eno. Then, mix 'em up. So here's what you get: a lot of insane guitar and synthesizer effects; weirdly dancey rhythms; black-as-night lyrics; and doomy baritone vocals intoning pitch-black lyrics (the fantastic opener "Atrocity Exhibition", with an unforgettable "This is the way, step inside!" refrain and awesomely dark lyrics). And random experiments with tape loops sometimes (the new wave from Hell "Isolation"). The album has a cold, mechanical feel that I would hate if not for two reasons: the group likes to experiment, and I'm all for that; and Ian Curtis' haunting, Lizard King-like baritone has a chilling type of resonance to it. Hell, "Passover" sounds almost like '80s pop, albeit '80s pop crossed with post-punk and Goth. And I love that one, too! Besides the obvious Ian Curtis factor, the guitar parts are amazing. And the groove is, too. Don't forget the groove. Anyway, there's even an industrial song here, and while I'm generally not into industrial, again, there's the Ian Curtis factor! That song, by the way, is "Colony", which perfectly fits in with Joy Division's overarching "depressing-as-hell" mood. Yeah, the Curtis factor improves even weaker songs like "A Means to an End", which has that great, "I put my trust in you!" refrain. I haven't really talked much about the non-Ian Curtis members of Joy Division, but they give a great creepy performance to "Heart and Soul", which really sounds like a post-punk Doors. Okay, so you've heard all about the group's influences, but who did they actually influence? "Twenty-Four Hours" isn't really a great song, but it does have a proto-U2 sound, so at least it was influential. Just kind of boring, other than in the surging instrumental sections, which just so happen to be the most U2-ish of the song. The last two songs aren't very good: "The Eternal" has a cool electric piano, I guess, but its title is all too apt; "Decades" goes on even longer, does even less; and has a nauseating harpsichord part. But I gotta say it, depression has never been as darkly, strangely entertaining. This was Joy Division's last album before Ian Curtis violently and tragically hanged himself."
'Leaders of Men'
Paul Ess. | Holywell, N.Wales,UK. | 12/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Still sounding years ahead of its time; 'Closer' has a reputation for coldness, for despair and for grim Northern doom-and-gloom - but I don't hear anything like that. I hear tough, life-affirming, FIERCE rock music, and while there's not much in the way of fun to be had here, it's not obligatory to have to take it so seriously.
The songs are (mostly) reflective and searching but none of them are 'dirges'. You could even dance to a couple of them, although you might struggle, knowing what happened just a few short weeks after its completion.
Martin Hannett's production is excellent; giving each song a clear and clean-ness, which allows every detailed lyric to bite home, to reach every nook and cranny of your psyche. In every sense we must participate in the pain, but we know that ultimately, by suffering it, this music (and very few others) breathes victory into our lives. It's beauty cannot bring anything but positives to our existence.
A lot has been written about 'Closer' in an attempt to mystify and mythify it - most of it gleefully encouraged by Tony Wilson and co at Factory Records - and while I'm not going to de-bunk all that, you should really take it all with a pinch of salt for what it is: a (brilliantly successful!) marketing ploy.
Which is not to say 'Closer' is meaningless, devoid of point. Far from it. It means more to me, and a lot of other people, than I can possibly describe in a few short (admittedly brilliant!) paragraphs. A big part of my life (still...sorry.), and always will be, 'Closer' is a true great, not stained in any way by the decades (sorry again) of hyperbole and spin which have followed it around. Buy it twice."
Joy Division at their most ambitious...
H. Jin | Melbourne, Australia | 09/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Much like Nirvana's 'In Utero', this album is probably doomed to be viewed forever as a "suicide note", with people scrutinising Ian Curtis' every lyric for "evidence" that he intended to take his own life. Please try to leave all that aside when listening to this album. Ian Curtis was a genius, but Joy Divison had three other members, and while the lyrics are often despairing, the most noticeable thing about 'Closer' is the increasing ambition and diversity of the music. I've always felt the instrumentalists are a bit undersold when discussing Joy Division; it's one thing to write poetic lyrics, but if every song had been a tuneless dirge, Joy Division would have worn out their welcome very quickly. The aggressive expansion of the band's sound makes 'Closer' even more interesting than 'Unknown Pleasures', although maybe slightly less consistent.
The range of influences and ideas here is extraordinary, as nearly every song branches out in a different direction. 'Atrocity Exhibition' has a tribal, Krautrock feel; 'Isolation' and 'Decades' border on synth-pop; 'Colony' is a forceful rocker, 'Heart And Soul' has an otherwordly, futuristic feel, and 'Twenty Four Hours' seems to look ten years ahead to grunge and alt-rock with its stop/start/soft/loud dynamic. Despite the dark lyrics, the music is invigorating and often danceable, with only the two closing tracks being more reflective and somber.
As good as this album is, I have two (fairly minor) criticisms of it:
Firstly, the sheer diversity of the music means the album does not fit together quite as well as 'Unknown Pleasures'. 'Closer' has some better individual songs, but 'Unknown Pleasures' is a more coherent, focussed album.
Secondly, producer Martin Hannett is not as consistent as before. He tries as many different things as the band, but they don't always come off, and at times it seems he's doing it simply because he can (a problem that would plague New Order's debut album 'Movement'). Sometimes he nails it; the nervous feel of 'Isolation', the very sparse, echoed 'Heart And Soul', the keyboard lines of 'Decades'. At other times, such as the chainsaw-guitar of 'Atrocity Exhibition' or the random hissing on 'The Eternal', he seems to detract from the songs instead of add to them. The production also robs tracks like 'A Means To An End' of some of their their power.
These minor flaws aside, Joy Division were in great form as individuals and as a band. It's a pity that the fate of Curtis too often overshadows the rapid musical development on display here."
'directionless so plain to see'
Deven Gadula | san francisco, ca, united states | 10/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music of Joy Division was so different from any other music played back in 1979 and 1980 that it required a name. A few names were given; gothic, new wave, dark wave, cold wave. The most appropriate would probably be post punk rock but it was way too early for the name to exist. Most of us outside of England got to know their music after the summer of 1980 when Joy Division no longer existed. I would dare to suggest that no other band has ever influenced rock music as much after such short existence. Closer is the second one of the 2 excellent albums released by Joy Division. Their final songs are on it. Their music in general is fairly hard to break through during your first exposure to it and they don't make it any easier for novices by starting this album the way they did. You may want to start with Heart And Soul and Twenty Four Hours, Eternal or Decades. These last 4 songs seem quieter and more peaceful; the last 3 are my favorite songs here. To me Joy Division is one of the strongest acts in rock music. I sometimes think of what would have been had Ian Curtis not committed his death on the eve of their American tour. These songs were getting better and better. Joy Division became a monument to so many musicians who came after them. If you do love them and are looking for similarities try The Sound and access it through their album From The Lyon's Mouth. Another proof of the greatness of Joy Division is the quality of music created by their diehard followers. Whenever I do these...band studies... I listen not only to every single song of their music as well the members' solo acts, but also to all cover songs of their music done as tribute by other bands. I have to say honestly that that is hardly ever a joyous task and very often most of these songs take about 15 seconds to evaluate. That experience was completely different in case of Joy Division and a tribute album A Means To An End is by far the best tribute album I have ever listened to. To me covers should be different from and better than the originals. You should listen to Transmission, New Dawn Fades, Day Of The Lords and Heart And Soul off that tribute album. Those covers are spectacular. My favorite songs off Unknown Pleasures are: New Dawn Fades, Insight, Day Of The Lords, Shadowplay, and besides the songs off these 2 albums In A Lonely Place and Atmosphere.
Ian Curtis' lyrics are in the class of their own, so powerful, so revealing, so real, and I would strongly recommend listening to Joy Division in complete isolation with his words next to you the first couple of times. "