Joy Division

Factory, 1980

REVIEW BY: Phil Jones


When I was asked to review something I didn't like that much, I knew it was time for my annual visit to Joy Division’s Closer. It’s an album that I desperately want to love, as everything is, in theory, in place: Joy Division made one of my all-time favorite singles, “Love Will Tear Us Apart;” they, like myself, are from the North West of England; they shaped the sound of post-punk and beginnings of indie; they recorded on Factory Records, home of other great bands like A Certain Ratio, Happy Mondays, and Durutti Column; they are cited by artists like U2 and The Cure as being major influences; and I love the Editors and Interpol, who clearly channel Joy Division in their music.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Closer was the second album from Joy Division (named after a Prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration) and was released just after the suicide of their lead singer, Ian Curtis; the remainder of the group continued on and became very successful as New Order.

It is no surprise that the album is not the happiest record that you might have heard, as Curtis was also the lyricist. However, as the album opens up with “Atrocity Exhibition,” it is the rhythms that are being played that stand out, thanks to some very industrial keyboard; it does paint a picture of the bleak Manchester skyline full of factories and also of personal despair. Producer Martin Hannett is seen as a significant force in this eerie and spacey music, moving the band away from their original aggressive, punk rock sound.

Each of the tracks has a very hypnotic feel, aided by Curtis’s relative unique baritone drone at the fore. The song where it works the best is the aforementioned “Atrocity Exhibition” with Bernard Summer’s guitar sounding like a machine gun and Curtis singing, “This is the way / Step inside,” ably backed by the solid rhythm section of Peter Hook and Stephen Morris holding the song together. This formula is repeated on “Isolation” and “Colony” to great success, showing the best of Joy Division.

However, while a lot of the rest of the disc has some interesting musical moments, a lot of them blur into one and it becomes a tough listen to take in one sitting, especially if you are not in a melancholy mood. This is summed up by the final track of the album, “Decades,” which actually feels like it lasts about that long.

So, it looks like I will have to wait for next year’s listen and hope that my musical palate has finally expanded to fully appreciate Joy Division.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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