Sunday, April 1, 2012

Album Review: Joy Division - Closer

Joy Division released their second and last album in the aftermath of singer Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980.  Everything, from the artwork, the song-titles and the music has the pallor of death over it.  But this is an album that deserves to be taken on its own merits, out of context.

The opening two tracks, Atrocity Exhibition and Isolation sound more experimental than their earlier work, with the keyboards and Stephen Morris' drums on the latter sounding almost lo-fi.  These two tracks laid down the template for the scratchier end of 80s goth (eg early Sisters of Mercy singles), especially Peter Hook's bassline.  Passover is a far more brooding track, albeit with some great guitar lines from Bernard Sumner.  A Means to An End, on the other hand has an almost disco beat, with a simple melody descending into Ian Curtis' despairing lyrics ("I put my trust in you... I put my trust in you") as the guitars spiral beautifully downwards.

The second half of the album begins with Heart and Soul, which sees the band lay the template for the early minimalist Cure (17 Seconds/Faith).  An insistently pulsing bassline provides the bedrock for Curtis' portentous, resigned lyrics.  Twenty Four Hours picks up the pace with heavier guitars and Curtis growling "so THIS is permanent?".  After the funereal plod of The Eternal the album concludes with the bleak, icy melody of Decades, all wintry keyboards and regret ("where have you been?").  It will haunt you when you sleep.

Bleak as it gets then, but essential.