Band: Joy Division
Album: Closer
Year: 1980
Label: Factory Records
Status: Disbanded 1980
This serious post-punk album has the intensity of Manchester but without the light relief. The lead singer, Ian Curtis, sets the tone. He’s like a burning humourless hypnotic light, one focus, no artifice, no sucking up. Watch Ian on his first TV appearance in 1978, Granada Reports, the way Tony Wilson introduces him while Ian is stood frowning down, arms akimbo: he won't smile, won’t even look at Tony. This isn’t party time. That’s appropriate for a band named after concentration camp sex slavery.

Who’s the album for?
  • Literary types. First track is the harsh and drilling Atrocity Exhibition, named after a J.G. Ballard novel. Ian Curtis didn’t just sing, he wrote the lyrics, and was rarely seen without a book in his hand that informed their creation.
  • The proletariat. Like many of these Manchester bands, there’s a working class sensibility. In the midst of millions we still feel Isolation as we grind away at A Means To An End, losing our Heart And Soul in the process.
  • Goths. Joy Division perfected melancholy and darkness in songs about sorrow and pain, loneliness, desolation, emptiness, urban decay. This album helped establish the gothic rock genre.
Closer is also Joy Division’s final album. An LP to end their story. A closer to a career. Ian Curtis, so talented, young, on the verge of success, about to tour America, could see what they were on the edge of, what waited only one step away … yet he chose to hang himself in a Manchester kitchen in May 1980. This album was released after his death. He never saw what he’d created. You get grabbed by circumstances, life, the things you create and the things you thought you wanted. It’s easy to see that as the whole picture, to feel there’s no escape from the atrocity exhibition.

Yet it’s also about getting closer – to our goals, to each other. The album cover may portray a mausoleum but after the pain of love there can be hope. Don’t give up, ever. Don’t walk away.

The surviving band members didn’t, and New Order was born.

Extract from page 77 of 2000 Tunes: A History of Manchester Music by M. H. Rees; used with permission. Read the whole series (25 extracts) here; or my summary post. Readers might be interested in my forthcoming novel about a man obsessed with Manchester music - confusingly, it is also called 2000 Tunes!