Joy Division – Closer (1980)

AllMusic Review: If Unknown Pleasures was Joy Division at their most obsessively, carefully focused, ten songs yet of a piece, Closer was the sprawl, the chaotic explosion that went every direction at once. Who knows what the next path would have been had Ian Curtis not chosen his end? But steer away from the rereading of his every lyric after that date; treat Closer as what everyone else thought it was at first — simply the next album — and Joy Division’s power just seems to have grown. Martin Hannett was still producing, but seems to have taken as many chances as the band itself throughout — differing mixes, differing atmospheres, new twists and turns define the entirety of Closer, songs suddenly returned in chopped-up, crumpled form, ending on hiss and random notes. Opener “Atrocity Exhibition” was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded, Bernard Sumner’s teeth-grinding guitar and Stephen Morris’ Can-on-speed drumming making for one heck of a strange start. Keyboards also took the fore more so than ever — the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan on “The Eternal,” the squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits “Isolation,” and above all else “Decades,” the album ender of album enders. A long slow crawl down and out, Curtis’ portrait of lost youth inevitably applied to himself soon after, its sepulchral string-synths are practically a requiem. Songs like “Heart and Soul” and especially the jaw-dropping, wrenching “Twenty Four Hours,” as perfect a demonstration of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard, simply intensify the experience. Joy Division were at the height of their powers on Closer, equaling and arguably bettering the astonishing Unknown Pleasures, that’s how accomplished the four members were. Rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Atrocity Exhibition” 6:06
2. “Isolation” 2:53
3. “Passover” 4:46
4. “Colony” 3:55
5. “A Means to an End” 4:07
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Heart and Soul” 5:51
2. “Twenty Four Hours” 4:26
3. “The Eternal” 6:07
4. “Decades” 6:10

 

Schill Score: 3.5/10

 

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Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)

AllMusic Review: It even looks like something classic, beyond its time or place of origin even as it was a clear product of both — one of Peter Saville’s earliest and best designs, a transcription of a signal showing a star going nova, on a black embossed sleeve. If that were all Unknown Pleasures was, it wouldn’t be discussed so much, but the ten songs inside, quite simply, are stone-cold landmarks, the whole album a monument to passion, energy, and cathartic despair. The quantum leap from the earliest thrashy singles to Unknown Pleasures can be heard through every note, with Martin Hannett’s deservedly famous production — emphasizing space in the most revelatory way since the dawn of dub — as much a hallmark as the music itself. Songs fade in behind furtive noises of motion and activity, glass breaks with the force and clarity of doom, and minimal keyboard lines add to an air of looming disaster — something, somehow, seems to wait or lurk beyond the edge of hearing. But even though this is Hannett’s album as much as anyone’s, the songs and performances are the true key. Bernard Sumner redefined heavy metal sludge as chilling feedback fear and explosive energy, Peter Hook’s instantly recognizable bass work was at once warm and forbidding, and Stephen Morris’ drumming smacked through the speakers above all else. Ian Curtis synthesizes and purifies every last impulse, his voice shot through with the desire first and foremost to connect, only connect — as “Candidate” plaintively states, “I tried to get to you/You treat me like this.” Pick any song: the nervous death dance of “She’s Lost Control”; the harrowing call for release “New Dawn Fades,” all four members in perfect sync; the romance in hell of “Shadowplay”; “Insight” and its nervous drive toward some sort of apocalypse. All visceral, all emotional, all theatrical, all perfect — one of the best albums ever. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Disorder” 3:36
2. “Day of the Lords” 4:48
3. “Candidate” 3:05
4. “Insight” 4:30
5. “New Dawn Fades” 4:48
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “She’s Lost Control” 3:56
2. “Shadowplay” 3:54
3. “Wilderness” 2:38
4. “Interzone” 2:16
5. “I Remember Nothing” 5:53

 

Schill Score: 3/10

 

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