I exist on the best terms I can.
The past is now part of my future,
The present is well out of hand.
The present is well out of hand.
Heart and soul, one will burn.
One will burn, one will burn.
Heart and soul, one will burn."
Closer is the second and final studio album by Joy Division, released in 1980. Recorded at Pink Floyd's Britannia Row studio and once again produced by Martin Hannett, it came out a mere two months after frontman Ian Curtis' suicide. Compared to its predecessor Unknown Pleasures the songs are even more dour and decidedly more experimental, with four of them (in order, "Isolation", "Heart and Soul", "The Eternal", and "Decades") making prominent use of haunting synthesizer arrangements that would serve as the groundwork for the surviving bandmates' work as New Order. Note that these four tracks were written in early 1980; the other five songs, which are more rockist in composition, were realized fresh off the heels of Unknown Pleasures during the latter half of 1979.
Commercially speaking, the album charted higher than Unknown Pleasures, peaking at No. 6 on the UK Albums chart, but in the end sold less than its predecessor, failing to meet any sales certifications. However, with Curtis' death having already cast a dark shadow over the band in the leadup to Closer's release, the album became the subject of even higher critical acclaim than Unknown Pleasures, with reviewers praising its subversive nature, haunting tone, and greater artistic advancement compared to its direct predecessor. The Village Voice ranked the album as the 22nd best album of 1980 in its Pazz & Jop critics' poll despite only being available in the U.S. as an import until its official American release the following year, and its stature has only grown since, with Closer now being regarded as Joy Division's studio masterpiece. The album was listed at No. 157 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, No. 16 on NME's own list in the same category, and No. 46 on the 2018 edition of Acclaimed Music's All Time Top Albums list. Among fans, deciding which one of the two albums is the band's best can still cause flame wars, but everyone agrees they are both great.
Like Unknown Pleasures before it, Closer was not supported by any singles upon release. However, it does contain a number of fan favourites, including "Isolation", "Colony", and "Heart and Soul".
- "Atrocity Exhibition" (6:06)
- "Isolation" (2:53)
- "Passover" (4:46)
- "Colony" (3:55)
- "A Means to an End" (4:07)
- "Heart and Soul" (5:51)
- "Twenty Four Hours" (4:26)
- "The Eternal" (6:07)
- "Decades" (6:10)
Bonus Disc (2007 Remaster) (Live):
- "Dead Souls" (4:58)
- "Glass" (3:42)
- "A Means to an End" (4:00)
- "Twenty Four Hours" (4:05)
- "Passover" (4:53)
- "Insight" (4:01)
- "Colony" (4:04)
- "These Days" (4:17)
- "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (3:13)
- "Isolation" (4:41)
- "The Eternal" (6:30)
- "Digital" (3:14)
- Ian Curtis - lead vocals, melodica
- Peter Hook - bass, guitar
- Stephen Morris - drums, percussion
- Bernard Sumner - guitar, synthesizer, bass
Here are the young men, the tropes on their shoulders:
- Accentuate the Negative: It's a Joy Division album. There's no talking about sunshine and rainbows here.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Atrocity Exhibition":You'll see the horrors of faraway place
Meet the architects of law face to face
See mass murder on a scale you've never seen
And all the one who try hard to succeed
- Broken Pedestal: How the person in "Decades" views himself:Each ritual showed up the door for our wanderings,Open then shut, then slammed in our face.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The album starts grim, and gets progressively gloomier throughout the set, ending with songs about the funeral of a social outcast and a visit to hell, which he is promptly rejected from.
- Child Hater: "The Eternal":Cry like a child, though these years make me older
With children my time is so wastefully spent
A burden to keep, though their inner communion
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal
- Come to Gawk: "Atrocity Exhibition" is about people who pay to see a barely living man in an asylum:Asylums with doors open wide,Where people had paid to see inside.For entertainment they watch his body twist.Behind his eyes he says, 'I still exist.
- Concept Album: The record seems to tell a narrative of an asylum patient being publicly humiliated for others' amusement, spiraling deeper and deeper into depression, killing himself, descending into Hell, and finally being booted out because it turns out he was too horrible of a person for even Hell to handle. In a way it's like The Downward Spiral but even bleaker.
- Crapsack World: A strong theme way beyond the point of despair.
- Darker and Edgier: The first album was certainly dark, but often hid its gloomy themes behind catchy, punk inspired tunes and indirect narratives. Closer takes a positively listless approach by comparison, having far fewer hope spots, slowing the pace and increasing the gloom present in the music by a considerable degree on its second side, resulting in what seems less like a conventional album and more like a raw cry of pain. Strangely, reviewers in 1980 nevertheless praised it as danceable.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover.
- Den of Iniquity: "Atrocity Exhibition", where human atrocities are exhibited for the amusement of others.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover was designed by Peter Saville, and features an impressively put-together framed photograph that invokes the haunting thanatos of the album.
- Despair Event Horizon: The whole album qualifies as this, due to it essentially being a prolonged suicide note, but "Heart and Soul" takes the cake:Existence, well what does it matter?
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Twenty Four Hours":Got to find my destiny before it gets too late
- Driven to Suicide: A huge theme, certainly in light of Curtis' eventual untimely end.
- Downer Ending: "Decades" (both for the album and the entire band thanks to its technical status as the last officially-released Joy Division song), which earns this on account of both its lyrics and its music.
- Epic Rocking: Several songs clock in at around 6 minutes. Considering how the album managed to get ten more minutes of length out of fewer songs than Unknown Pleasures, there probably would have been more of these had Ian not crossed the Despair Event Horizon by this point.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Isolation" ends with one.
- Freud Was Right: In "Isolation", Ian addresses a line to his mother.
- God-Is-Love Songs: "Colony":God in his wisdom took you by the hand / God in his wisdom made you understand
- Goth Rock: While not conventionally classified as this, its atmospheric dread and lyrical anguish and the influence they carry renders the album a cornerstone of the genre.
- Gratuitous Panning: The tom-tom hits on "Passover" are panned between the left and right speakers.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Neither of the two sides are labeled on LP releases; the only indication as to which side is which are the etchings in the runout area, which contain the album's serial number plus "A" or "B" depending on the side.
- I Want My Mommy!: "Isolation":Mother I've tried, please believe me
I'm doing the best that I can
I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through
I'm ashamed of the person I am
- Jump Scare: The end of "Isolation", after reversing the tape, invokes this with a loud burst of noise.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Isolation" and "A Means to an End", which slowly comes to an end. "Isolation" is an interesting case in that it's just the last few seconds of the song being played backwards, the end result of Martin Hannet's hasty attempts at reversing a junior sound engineer's damaging of the song's master recording.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band:
- "The Eternal".
- Done by tape manipulation on "A Means to an End".
- Longest Song Goes Last: "Decades"
- Lonely Piano Piece: "The Eternal" is dominated with downbeat piano playing and synthesized choir effects.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Isolation", a bouncy synth-pop tune with gloomy lyrics:Surrendered to self preservation,From others who care for themselves.A blindness that touches perfection,But hurts just like anything else.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: A black and white photograph of the Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy, framed against a white backdrop. This, of course, lead to very unfortunate implications after Curtis' death.
- New Sound Album: Quoth Wikipedia, Closer "featured an even darker, doomed Curtis and a total abandonment of the punk aesthetic for a more unearthly, primeval sound." Compared to Unknown Pleasures, the album is far more experimental in tone and makes greater use of synthesizers, to the point where Joy Division at this point seems like an almost completely different band than the one that made "Disorder" and "She's Lost Control".
- One-Word Title: "Closer", as well as the individual tracks "Isolation", "Passover", "Colony" and "Decades".
- Record Producer: Martin Hannett.
- Self-Deprecation: "Isolation":Mother, I tried, please believe meI'm doing the best that I canI'm ashamed of the things I've been put throughI'm ashamed of the person I am
- The album was inspired by J. G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition and the first track was named after this novel.
- "Colony" was inspired by Franz Kafka's short story '"In the Penal Colony".
- "The Eternal" opens with synthesized train sounds and a slow, chugging bass riff, similar to the title track of David Bowie's Station to Station. Given that Ian Curtis was a Big Name Fan of Bowie, this is likely intentional, as was the decision to feature a monochrome photograph against a white background for the album cover, similarly to Station to Station.
- The album cover also acts as a nod to that of Vienna by Ultravox; the similarities are no coincidence, as both covers were designed by Peter Saville and the two albums were released just a week apart.
- Stock Sound Effects: "The Eternal" has train sounds which were mixed in and heavily manipulated.
- Synthpop: "Isolation", "Heart and Soul", and "Decades" show the band experimenting with the genre that the surviving members would later perfect as New Order.
- Too Spicy For Yog Sogoth: "Decades" tells a narrative of the narrator and his friends descending into Hell (presumably continuing off of "The Eternal" and its story about a funeral procession), only to be kicked out because the atrocities they committed in their lifetime are too much even for Satan to handle.
- Variant Cover: Barring the Factory US release, most early CD versions of the album omit the small black square framing the cover art, and London Records' CD release gives the cover and liner notes a yellow tint. Allegedly, the tinting is meant to reflect how the album was released in the United States, but actual official copies on both Factory US and Qwest Records are just as white as UK copies.