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Joy Division – Closer (1980)

August 19, 2015

[Album 416/1001]220px-Joy_Division_Closer

What was the deterrent has become the magnet.

When I reviewed Unknown Pleasures, I moaned about (well, at least I didn’t energetically compliment) the production and the singer’s voice.

I’ve since done a 180: for both Joy Division albums, I’m thrilled the production sounds dated and that the singer’s voice is imperfect.

Closer is what I’d call a time capsule record; it should forever sound like 1980.

Remixing/remastering efforts may have happened since but in Joy Division’s case, I’m not interested in hearing them.


Now although this qualifies for my series of summer releases (as it was released in July 1980), it sounds nothing like summer.

Based on the cover, the contents, and the context, it may be the bleakest record on the 1001 list.

But it may also be the optimal album & album length for my personal summer enjoyment.

At 44 minutes, that’s long enough to go for a decent run & cool down/stretch afterwards.

As an eternal optimist, I find I gravitate towards depressing music, maybe even more so in the summer.  In the winter, I likely benefit from more poppy infusions but in the summer heat, I find what others might call ‘sad bastard music’ comfortably balancing.

With Closer‘s 9 tracks, there’s just enough room to find the joy in sadness.  Add or omit a track and the balance would likely be lost.


Unfortunately, due to the death of singer Ian Curtis, this was a posthumous release.

This also makes for a morbidly fascinating listen.

The closing track, Decades, features a powerful refrain, “where have they been?”

Others have likely made the comparison (perhaps it’s inevitable) but it reminds me of the experience of listening to the closing lines from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York.  Knowing how the story ends for the lead singer, hearing those final words can be chilling, can be challenging, but are ultimately unforgettable.


From → 1980s

  1. Bleak indeed. But we can’t listen to ZZTop and songs about cars every day!

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    I’m glad you’ve done a complete 180 on Martin Hannett’s incredible and groundbreaking production work on Joy Division’s albums. He pretty much gave them their sound, much like Brian Eno did for U2.

    • I figured out my problem with Unknown Pleasures – I listened in January, it was just too bleak in that setting, should have explored in the summer!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        That sort of makes sense. I love Hannett though, he’s completely psycho. There’s a scene in the film 24 hour party people where Hannett (played by Andy Serkis) is standing on a cliff with a massive microphone recording silence.

      • I could see Serkis playing that role nicely!

      • 24 Hour Party People was quite the film. Recommended.

  3. “Closer is what I’d call a time capsule record; it should forever sound like 1980.”

    Indeed, my friend. I couldn’t have said that any better. I’m glad Joy Division ended up growing on you.

  4. It’s a satisfying (if mysterious) process whereby an album moves from disconnection to connection. I’ve my own version of your Joy Division journey and enjoyed reading about yours. Cheers.

    • Thanks Bruce – I’m wondering if these initially disconnected-eventually connected albums end up being that much more durable as a result.
      When one is born again with religion, he/she tends to be all the more fervent, so perhaps I’ll be that way now that I’ve converted to a fan here!

      • I reckon that being fervent about Joy Division would involve some serious emotional calisthenics!

  5. Totally connected with this, Geoff. I remember feeling the very same way about Joy Division when I first heard them – there was something about it that didn’t connect with me. Took a bit of distance before it really hit me. And it was the coldness of the production, etc that drew me in. Really quite brilliant.

    • That’s it – it is cold, it is stark – but I’m realizing therein lies the appeal!
      Thanks J, glad to hear I wasn’t alone on not getting it at first and also joining the party eventually!

  6. ianbalentine permalink

    As Jprobichaud rightfully stated it was Martin Hannett that created the (pardon the pun) atmosphere of Closer, which is very claustrophobic and weirdly alluring to my ears, always has been. I also love and highly recommend the movie he mentions, 24 Hr Party People, as well.

    If you dug the sound of Closer, you might want to check out Happy Monday’s album Bummed. Nice post, thanks a bunch for reminding me of this great album!

  7. The whole mythology / weight of Joy Division has always, bar a couple of tunes, put me off them a lot. That and some Mancunian JD obsessives I lived with at university.

    • Yes – my roommates were great at introducing me to bands but you’re right, sometimes to the point of overexposure!

      • My first university roomate was all Dr. Demento, and my second roomate was all Rush, Priest and Maiden.

      • Dr. Demento’s one I keep meaning to check out, he was an early part of Weird Al’s career!

  8. I’m with Mr. 1537 on this one, sad to say (cue JD music as score…)… This band just never grew on me, though I do take your meaning about the time of year playing a role in the enjoyment. I also would not knock their inclusion in the list – I know it’s strong, and worthy, it just never got me to like it. I might lump them with that My Bloody Valentine Loveless record – ones I should probably like but can never reach.

    • I know that feeling with some other bands – I appreciate them more than I enjoy actually listening to them!

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