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Closer is the second and final studio album by the English rock band Joy Division. It was released on 18 July 1980 on Factory Records, following the May 1980 suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. The album was produced by Martin Hannett. After the posthumous release of Joy Division's non-album hit single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order.

Today, Closer is widely recognised as a defining release of the post-punk era. According to critic Ned Raggett, "rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here."[1]

Writing and recording[]

The songs were drawn from two distinct periods. The earlier guitar driven compositions were written during the latter half of 1979: Atrocity Exhibition, Passover, Colony, A Means To An End and 24 Hours. All were played live in that year and some were recorded for various radio sessions. The other songs were written in early 1980 and made more prominent use of synthesisers: Isolation, Heart And Soul, The Eternal and Decades.[3] Most songs were written by jamming in their practice room.[4] Regarding the album's lyrical content, Bernard Sumner remarked, "We'd go to rehearsals and sit around and talk about really banal things. We'd do that until we couldn't talk about banal things any more, then we'd pick up our instruments and record into a little cassette player. We didn't talk about the music or the lyrics very much. We never analysed it."[5]

Closer was produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral."[6] However, as with their debut album, both Hook and Sumner were unhappy with Hannett's work. Peter Hook later complained that the track "Atrocity Exhibition" was mixed on one of his days off, and when he heard the final product was disappointed that the abrasiveness of his guitar part had been laden with effects and toned down. He wrote; "I was like, head in hands, oh fucking hell, it's happening again. Unknown Pleasures number two ... Martin [Hannett] had melted the guitar with his Marshall Time Waster. Made it sound like somebody strangling a cat, and to my mind, absolutely killed the song. I was so annoyed with him and went in and gave him a piece of my mind but he just turned around and told me to fuck off."[7]

The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard was an influence on the album, and the 1970 collection of "condensed novels" shares its title with the opening track.[8]


The album cover was designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, with photography by Bernard Pierre Wolff. The photograph on the cover is of the Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy. In a 2007 documentary on the band, designer Peter Saville commented that he, upon learning of singer Ian Curtis's suicide, expressed immediate concern over the album's design as it depicted a funeral theme, remarking "we've got a tomb on the cover of the album!"

Closer was released on 18 July 1980, through the Factory Records label, as a 12" vinyl LP. It reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and spent four weeks at number 1 in Australia. It also peaked at number 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. It claimed the number one slot on NME Album of the Year and Colour Radio 4IP's Album of the Century. The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still, was remastered and re-released in 2007. As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster comes packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London.

Factory boss Tony Wilson was pleased with the final album and predicted it would be a commercial success. Sumner recalled him saying at the time, "You know Bernard, this time next year you’ll be lounging by a swimming pool in LA with a cocktail in your hand." Sumner was less optimistic and "just thought it was the most utterly ridiculous thing anyone had ever said to me."[9]


Template:Album reviews At the time of release, Sounds critic Dave McCullough wrote that there were "dark strokes of gothic rock" on Closer. He described the album as "breathtaking rock music, a peak of current peaks, a sharing of something that's in [...] others at this time, but at the same time defining those black notions and leaving them unmatched."[10] Writing for Smash Hits, Alastair Macaulay described the album as an "exercise in dark controlled passion" and wrote that its music "stands up on its own as the band's epitaph".[11] Writing for Melody Maker, Paolo Hewitt described the album as "probably some of the most irresistible dance music we'll hear this year [and] a far cry for sure from the almost suffocating claustrophobic world of the debut album," adding that "the best (and most subversive?) rock music has always dealt head-on with emotions and thought rather than cliched, standardised stances; that's what makes Closer and Joy Division so important."[12]

At the end of 1980, it was voted the 22nd best record of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[13] Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, deemed the album an improvement over Unknown Pleasures in a retrospective review: "Curtis's torment is less oppressive here because it's less dominant--the dark, roiling, off-center rhythms have a life of their own. And if last time the dancier material had hooks, this time even the dirges have something closely resembling tunes.[14] According to Colin Larkin, Closer has since been "deservedly regarded by many critics as the most brilliant rock album of the 80s"; Larkim himself found the record flawless, writing in his Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2011) that it showed Joy Division at their creative peak and "maturity in every area" of their music.[15] In his review of the 2007 reissue of the album, Pitchfork critic Joshua Klein described the album as "even more austere, more claustrophobic, more inventive, more beautiful and more haunting than its predecessor", calling it "Joy Division's start-to-finish masterpiece; a flawless encapsulation of everything the group sought to achieve."[6]


The album has been highly acclaimed, and is often cited as Joy Division's finest work. Cultural theorist Mark Fisher wrote that the album is "often considered the crown jewel of post-punk."[16] Rapper Danny Brown named his fourth album after the song "Atrocity Exhibition".[citation needed] Singer George Michael had praised the album.[citation needed] Pitchfork listed Closer as the 10th best album of the 1980s.[17] It was placed 72nd on NME's list of the one-hundred greatest British albums ever. In 2003, the album was placed at number 157 on Rolling Stone's list of the five-hundred greatest albums ever.[18] In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 8 in its list of the forty best albums of the 1980s.[19] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 7 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[20] Sonic Seducer listed it 2nd in their list "10 Key Albums for the Gothic Scene".[21]

Track listing[]

All songs written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner.

Side A
1."Atrocity Exhibition"6:06
5."A Means to an End"4:07
Side B
6."Heart and Soul"5:51
7."Twenty Four Hours"4:26
8."The Eternal"6:07
Total length:44:16

Note: the original vinyl disc only contained a small etching on the disk marking the A and B side, many people failed to notice and the actual track listing was made more clear upon the release of the CD.


Joy Division
  • Ian Curtis – lead vocals, melodica (track 9)
  • Bernard Sumner – guitar, bass guitar (track 1), synthesizers (tracks 2, 6, 8, and 9)
  • Peter Hook – bass guitar, guitar (track 1), six-string bass guitar (tracks 3, 6, and 8)
  • Stephen Morris – drums, electronic drums, percussion
  • Martin Hannett – production, engineering
  • Michael Johnson – engineering assistance
  • John Caffery – engineering


  1. 1.0 1.1 Raggett, Ned. "Closer – Joy Division". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  2. Sande, Kiran (2 November 2010). "20 best: Goth records ever made". Fact. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
  3. Sumner, 128.
  4. Sumner, 78.
  5. Nicolson, Barry (2 August 2012). "Most Important Albums Of NME's Lifetime - Joy Division, Closer". NME. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Klien, Joshua (29 October 2007). "Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  7. Hook, 42.
  8. "J. G. Ballard – Times Online". 5 January 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  9. Nicolson, Barry. "The 60 Most Important Albums Of NME's Lifetime". NME, August 2, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2014
  10. McCullough, Dave (26 July 1980). "Closer to the Edge". Sounds. Young men in dark silhouettes, some darker than others, looking inwards, looking out, discovering the same horror and describing it with the same dark strokes of gothic rock.
  11. Macaulay, Alastair (24 July – 6 August 1980). "Albums". Smash Hits. p. 29.
  12. Hewitt, Paolo (26 July 1980). "Joy Division: Closer (Factory Records FACT XXV)". Melody Maker. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  13. "Pazz & Jop 1980: Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. 9 February 1981. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  14. Christgau, Robert (1990). "Joy Division". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. p. 222. ISBN 0-679-73015-X.
  15. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Larkin
  16. Fisher, Mark. "Stealing Fire: The Pop Group`S `Y` Lp: Fact Magazine". Archived from the original on 18 March 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2015. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  17. Carr, Eric (20 November 2002). "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  18. "500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 157 [[:Template:Pipe]] Joy Division - Closer". Rolling Stone. 2003. Retrieved 19 August 2013. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  19. "[Unknown title]". Q. No. 241. August 2006.
  20. "Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  21. Gnuch, Kym (2012). "10 Alben mit Schlüsselcharakter für die Gothic-Szene". Sonic Seducer (in German). Vol. Special edition no. 1. p. 67.


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