Sound — 9
So I just read the only review of "Closer" currently on UG and decided that the album deserved a real review. So here goes. On Closer, Joy Division's sound is really quite different from the sound of the minimalist postpunk found on Unknown Pleasures. On the opener, Atrocity Exhibition, bassist Peter Hook and guitarist Benard Sumner swapped instruments, and the result is a very experimental, cacophonic guitar sound paired with a rhythmic bass complimenting the metronome drumming style of Stephen Morris. I mention all this because there is not other song that quite sounds like it on the album. A few tracks, "Passover", "Colony", "A Means To An End", and "Twenty-Four Hours" have much of the same minimalist guitar and bass parts in sympathy to one another, as seen on Unknown Pleasures, but on Closer the feel is less raw. Peter Hook breaks out his six-string bass on this album, which brings a less distorted bass sound, while the guitar style feautres less of the punk power chords found on UP, and more reserved riffs and licks show up here. The rest of the album features keyboards played by Bernard instead of guitar. The bass keeps the same sound, but the keyboards are always raw, keep in mind that it's 1980 and they're on a relatively small indie label. These guys aren't using The Human League's keyboards. These cheap keyboards keep the same atmosphere as the guitar does, but the sound has a greater range, upbeat on the electro "Isolation" to very silky and subdued on the piano-led "The Eternal". So Joy Division remain the kings of atmospheric rock, but the means by which they create that chilling atmosphere has expanded on Closer.
Lyrics — 10
Can you argue with Ian Curtis? His haunting baritone is in full force on this album, except he's probably a bit more on key in this album, since they're getting away from that punk rawness and towards a more creative postpunk sound. His lyrics are, as always, fantastic, with many songs featuring "that line" that he drills into your head, ex.: "This is the way, step inside", "I put my trust in you", "This is a crisis I knew had to come", and the unforgettable closing line "Where have they been?". The lyrics of course, are terribly depressing, as this album is generally regarded as Ian's suicide note, but this album more or less defined the term "dark beauty" overused by so many.
Overall Impression — 10
Everyone who listens to Joy Division is either a "Closer" person, or an "Unknown Pleasures" person. It might take a while to find which one you are, since, let's face it, each album is more or less perfect. I personally am an Unknown Pleasures person, as I enjoy a more cohesive album, whereas Closer jumps between guitar-based songs and keyboard songs so much that Closer feels more song-oriented, not album-oriented. However, that doesn't mean that Closer is not a great album. This is an important album in rock history. From the disjointed Atrocity Exhibition, to the epic Decades, Closer is Ian Curtis' suicide, an final album that never intended itself to be a final album. Closer built the bridge from punk to new wave, and it's legacy can been seen across the board in music since. Put simply, this album f--king rocks.