Friday, 13 April 2012

Joy Division - Closer


People forget that Joy Division were more than just a band. It sounds cliché, but it's true. They were not ahead of their time because they had no time. They were quite simply different and unique. It amazes me listening to Joy Division because their sound is so unusual and vivid. 'Unknown Pleasures' broke the barrier between them and the industry. The earlier punk rock recordings were not the right direction for Joy Division, so they took to the genre known as 'post-punk' and began creating textures of punk mixed with the longevity of post-rock. Three words can describe Joy Division and they're the same three words used to describe producer Martin Hannett's work, 'sparse, eerie and spacious'. Closer began the 1980's with an extraordinary album and one that is regularly missed and arguably the better of the two Joy Division albums.

The ringing drums and sparse percussion on 'Atrocity Exhibition' set the base of the track. For this track, bassist Peter Hook switches places with guitarist Bernard Sumner. I have no idea why, but it does shoe great musicianship and skill of both members. The raw drums creep up your spine as the roll and create a vivid atmosphere which is extremely dark. It's a magnificent beat and allows the following six minutes of music to be creepy and obscure enough to deliver greatness. This is one of the best opening tracks ever, period. The bass fade outs and fade ins make this track what it is, eerie and different. Ian Curtis delivers an outstanding vocal which has some of his best lyrics written. 'Isolation' then expands on the bands rock dynamics with the inclusion of the synthesizer. The industrial beat by drummer Stephen Morris is horrifyingly beautiful, with Peter Hook's bass taking lead. The track doesn’t reach the three minute mark and for good reason, it doesn’t need to. The climatic ending is outrageous as the synthesizer takes control with the power and the percisson is included to create a vigorous atmosphere with Ian Curtis singing with his heavy voice.

'Passover' is mind-blowing, it really is. Ian Cutis is the focus here. His lyrics are extremely haunting, with a depressing vibe added to his voice. Remember Ian Curtis passed away two months prior to this albums release. His thoughts must have been focussed on cutting his life short during these recording sessions. You can feel the darkness in his voice and that's what makes this album spectacular. The electric guitar is obscured by the heavy bass and typical Joy Division drumming, but the guitar is outstanding to say the least, it's the pure noise sound it has that separated Joy Division from the next post-punk band. 'Colony' has a much faster tempo with Morris taking control on the drums with symbolic energy. Peter Hook's bass follows the same pattern, as does Sumner's guitar. The instrumentation is completely out there as one of the most eerie and atmospheric recordings of the 80's. The left to right sided production style has taken raised the mark here and all credit should go to Martin Hannett for recording Joy Division to the best of his capabilities.

Side note.. If anyone else puts Joy Division in the same sentence as The Cure & The Smiths, I'm going to shoot myself. Now, 'A Means To An End'. This track opens with a very solid drum beat with a bass riff which lowers and sticks throughtout the track. The squeaky guitar riff is imaginative and works wonders in focussing the listener away from the withdrawn Ian Curtis vocal. His inability to sing shines through as his monotonous voice rings wonders. The reverb has been added perfectly to the drums and everything seems to work incredibly well together even though each aspect of the song is in its own little universe.

'Heart And Soul' begins the second half of the album with a bang. The bass riff is enigmatic and the reverberated drumming stands out as a clear indication of vague instrumentation. The atmosphere raises it's game when the synthesizers and soundscapes enter with physical presence. Ian Curtis gives a very quiet vocal and begins high pitched, slowly transforming his voice deeper over time. The lyrics are utterly brilliant, which can be heard very clearly kicking in at the one minute mark, "Instincts that can still betray us, a journey that leads to the sun. Soulless and bent on destruction,
 a struggle between right and wrong."
This track is an indication of what was to come of Joy Division, New Order. The eerie Ian Curtis vocals are slowly being replaced by the dark mood and memorable synthesizer. This continues in the following track 'Twenty Four Hours'. The listener is exposed to a heavier sound with delay effects all over the shot. The result, one deep track of noise and dynamics

Nothing on this album compares to the heart-breaking 'The Eternal'. We'll get to the lyrical theme in just a second but let's focus on the instrumental. What makes this track standout is the gloomy piano layers that create a very wide atmosphere. The soundscapes are present, as is the extremely reverberated drumming. Everything about this track is depressing and dark, it makes for great sad, lonely music and I'm swallowing it up. Ian Curtis wrote his lyrics about not being able to move on. He used his vision of a childhood memory of seeing a child in his small world, to later see the very same child looking exactly the same in his world 15 years on. Ian relates to this story and in the process writes one of the best songs of the 80's.

Closer is an intense album, I'm always sitting on the edge waiting for that moment of insanity and destruction, but it never comes. It's the sound of a band that is in control of their output, and what an achievement this is. 'Decades' has one of their best synthesizer riffs I have ever heard, Ian Curtis asks the deep questions and Morris delivers one of the vaguest drumming tracks on the album. Closer has something many albums fail to gain, and that's unprecedented freedom. These four young adults deliver their view of the world with pure doom and gloom with little encouragement other than a superb bass riff or excellent melody. It's not just an album of depressing tracks with the unfortunate death of Ian Curtis ringing in your ears, it's an album of energy and atmosphere. The world is dark according to Joy Division, and Closer stands tall as one of the most emotionally destructive and musically beautiful albums of all time.
~Eddie

9.8 


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