- 18 Jul 23
On July 18, 1980 – two months after the tragic death of Ian Curtis – Joy Division released their second and final studio album, Closer. To mark its anniversary, we're revisiting Dan Oggly's reflections on the seminal LP...
Press coverage was busily offering some kind of picture of the Joy Division camp, so people knew what to expect when Closer emerged in 1980. Or so they thought.
Sure, the second album was a progression – Martin Hannett had given it a fuller guitar sound, more substantial percussion to add to the familiar, dark and brooding vocal and lyrical content – but, if anything, while less skeletal than its predecessor, Closer, with the addition of substantial synth use, was somehow even bleaker and more powerful.
'Atrocity Exhibition' was dominated by rolling drums and guitar squalls, with Ian Curtis inviting entry to the cruel, animal freak show that is life: "This is the way, step inside." But 'Isolation' was (and still is) a complete shock to the system. A plodding synth that smacked of new romanticism but subverted that genre's camp foppery by way of Stephen Morris's crisp, punchy, percussive beats and Curtis' doom-laden vocal style.
'Heart And Soul' is a stunning, tension-filled piece with its insistent beat and repetitive guitar riffs, and with Curtis (vocals sounding as if they were recorded in a crypt) asking: "Existence, well what does it matter?"
This second side showed the vocalist, who died by suicide in the same year of release, at his most vulnerable – with a fragile helplessness pervading every track. There was 'Twenty Four Hours', with its perfect bass melody, hi-hat laden percussion and upbeat mentality, and Curtis recalling, almost epitaphically, how, "Just for one moment, I thought I found my way, destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away."
And then there was the excellent 'Decades' with its metal back beat, synth swathes and the immortal line: "Here are the young men, a weight on their shoulders," that seemed to sum up 'the Joy Division fan' – pale, limp and world-weary, shrouded in a black, shapeless overcoat.