Joy Division – Closer

Joy Division only have two proper studio albums. Both are deserving of anyones ears and attention. The bands 2nd and final album I would honestly rate as one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard. It might even be the best album I’ve ever heard. I guess the only thing that is stopping me from stating it’s the best album ever is the fact that I find it hard to listen to now. I listen to it about once a year, I know it inside out. Listen to it if you’re a bit down – you quickly realise you aren’t down at all…

Bleak. Beautiful. And oddly, very uplifting all at the same time. A truly very rare feat.

I can recall, not too far back, Coldplay suggesting they might call it a day after their first two albums and leave a two classic album legacy like Joy Division. I thought, but Coldplay haven’t made any work anywhere near as good as Joy Divisions sublime output – what were they thinking?

Anyway. Enough mini- Coldplay bashing for now. Here’s my take on Closer. Best album of alltime? Quite possibly.

Atrocity Exhibition rolls in with a rhythmic drum. Bass and scraping guitar punctuate the angular sound. Then Ian Curtis begins to sing / speak. The voice / vocal sounds so cold as it beckons you “This Is The Way Step Inside” pulls you into Closer. Eerie yet assured. A strong of an album opener as you will find. Towards the end of the track Curtis speeds up the vocal – Yet it remains ice cold and distant.

Isolation sounds altogether more electronic. You can hear hints of the sound New Order would develop in this track. Peter Hook lets go that deep bass pretty much right from the off. The instruments sound like they are working against each other and somehow melt together too. Ian Curtis again sounds very removed but the sound and vocal delivery dominate the piece. The image of gassing presents itself to me slightly when I listen to isolation. It fades, then comes back it to hiss out a bit like a water hose doing it’s own thing left on grass spurting and cutting loose from control.

Passover coaxes in. It has a more initial languid feel. The vocal sounds soft, then bold… yet lost – almost. The drum uses the toms to again evoke and hint at the electronic direction a later incarnation of the band would use so well. Sheets of sound wave through the listener.

Colony has a similar sound to Passover. It is more urgent and slightly more angular than the preceding track. Evoking the sound of twisted military the guitar is more prominent than Closer has suggested so far. The bass plucks in its near attack. Curtis sounds tired yet supremely confident. The track rises towards its end, cuts, then it’s gone.

Means To An End has a beautiful evocative moody riff. The first, (only?), real riff that Closer has. The high hat punctuates the guitar and low tuned bass to great effect. Lyrically a moody picture is painted. Very open to interpretation it’s a great ending to Side One of a perfect album.

Side Two opens with Heart And Soul. A moody, low keyboard is offered. The drums are faster than we’ve heard as yet. You’d be forgiven for thinking that sound is a drum machine not a human. The track builds. Curtis sounds different, vocally a few keys higher than so far – the theme of the album continues.  The vocal delivery evokes an image of an outer body experience, it looks in. The guitar dreams and sprawls over the rhythm that has been set . Bernard Sumner is not a great guitarist but he is a great musician, it all works so well.

Twenty Four Hours is arguably Joy Divisions best ever track. A subtle bass with washing juddering guitar laps intro the piece. The drums set a pace then it really raises the bar. Urgent. Powerful. It has menace but retains beauty. The vocal is Ian Curtis at his best. Excessive Blackpoint Beyond All Reach. Twenty Four Hours rises and dips. The vocal, subtle and suggestive. Controlled and devastating. When it rises the clatter for the forepoint is near battled by all in the band, but this does not destroy the track, it adds to it. they know when to hold off – and when to attack. Hard to do this piece justice with mere written words. Go listen to it!

Eternal eases off. It’s needed after the preceding track. Again gas (like in Isolation) suggests itself. Closer washes over the listener and you sit there listening to it pretty much gob-smacked. Piano is used to near spooky effect. Eternal ambles, washes and cleanses. The track fades out with a fumbled piano – almost like the band are not aware of the work of genuis they’ve just laid down.

Decades had a near processional feel to it. Achingly beautiful from its offset. Sparse. It rises loosely, fades, then the bass loops very slightly before a very powerful key change. Then it holds off again. So many bands would have upped the stakes as Ian Curtis asks where have they been. The restraint leaves you yearning for Joy Division cut loose – but lets face it – they know what they are doing. The result is a unique sound. A power all of its own.

The needle skates off Closer and you are left charged by its very low key power. Surely one of the greatest albums ever has just been absorbed? I really would say it’s my favourite album of all-time, but I just can’t listen to it more than once a year – it’s that powerful. This makes me question if it is or not. Definitely Top Three, maybe Two, maybe the best? I’m rambling now…. Go listen to it…

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