18 July 1980: 43:59 minutes of music that changed everything. Only 4 years after their formation, Joy Division recorded their second release ‘Closer’, following ‘Unknown Pleasures’ on 20 June 1979, both in Factory Records.
The band teams up with producer Martin Hannett again to enter the Britannia Row Studios in Islington-London, from 18 to 30 March 1980 to record what turned out to be one of the most significant and avant-garde records in the book of rock music. Both the band and the producer never came up again with work of such quality, Ian Curtis left this world and Joy Division ceased. As for Hannett, his addictions never let him return with a release of similar value. And, if ‘Unknown Pleasures’ put the band’s name in the discussions and quarrels of the music fans and the music magazines, ‘Closer’ made their fame travel beyond Manchester, and many people in the industry started showing interest in booking that grey Joy Division from northwest England.
‘Atrocity Exhibition’, the first track of the LP starts the band’s adventurous and weird music, and Ian’s voice comes as a poet’s menace that leaves no shades in the dark. ‘Closer’ is made out of the social conditions of the era, in the grey industrial city of the working-class Manchester. It seems that punk is not enough for the band, and post-punk is not their keen on. New Wave is the music that is orgasmic in the subculture, and they seem to be listening a lot of it, so after post-punk ‘Unknown Pleasures’, they sound like there is fertile ground for them to take their music a step beyond, into something darker and better arranged.
‘Isolation’, the second track, comes as a proof that the band is evolving; it feels like they perform their generation’s expected dance. ‘Passover’ and, ‘Colony’, are songs for personal listening, letting the music touch the listener, and giving something darker and weirder to keep busy to. ‘A Means To An End’ and ‘Heart And Soul’ are setting the record in a weird socializing frame, inviting us for a beer and chat, while ‘Twenty Four Hours’ is waiting in the corner: a new wave post-punkish anthem to dance to with an Ian so pale and angry on love and the situations involved. ‘The Eternal’ is a pale lament and a masterpiece of mourning where the music builds a haunting environment, until Ian Curtis starts placing the final stone on the beloved’s final dwelling. Lastly, ‘Decades’ comes like the music that takes us out of this astonishing journey, the outro to the album, culminating our experience.
‘Closer’ still makes a huge impact, and it is considered as a must-have in somebody’s collection. The fans will always have that release in their hearts as a unique diamond and the journalists will always recur to ‘Closer’ for answers in music. Four extremely talented musicians who changed youth pop culture into a more realistic and darker stream, the dark wave and a producer that caught the moment like an orchestra conductor, they all formed a team together to record something unrepeatable. ‘Closer’ was released on 18 July 1980, but Ian Curtis decided to leave his demons and this world before on 18 May 1980, a few hours before the band’s departure for their first U.S. tour.
This small article has been written while in a tense mood due to Ian Curtis’ suicide, 36 years ago. Ian Curtis, you will always be loved in our souls for your voice and your lyrics that have made so many people identify with you and have helped many others fight depression. For all of us, Joy Division will always be a damn unfulfilled desire.
***Bernard Pierre Wolff is the photographer behind the excellent LP cover.