On July 18th, 1980, Joy Division released their second and final studio album, Closer.  The album was released posthumously through Factory Records, following the suicide of singer Ian Curtis two months earlier.

Producer Martin Hannett while working on the Closer sessions would continue his work mixing Curtis’ vocals for the non-album single “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This in itself highlighted deeper development in Curtis’ singing style, which according to legend, was the result of a gift of Frank Sinatra records that Factory label head owner Tony Wilson had given Curtis just prior to these sessions.

Hannett would go yet even further with his work refining Curtis’ vocals, working separately with in-studio with Ian away from the other members of Joy Division. This transcended the music stylistically, creating something both sombre and complex, whose dark lyrical content was in hindsight indicative of what was to come to pass.

Ian Curtis in Studio

It was not only the vocals captures during these sessions that make Closer a masterpiece, but also the further integration of hauntingly atmospheric synths courtesy of Bernard Sumner on tracks like “Decades” and “Isolation”, the masterful basslines by Peter Hook on tracks like “24 Hours”, and Stephen Morris’ powerful and unsettling percussion on tracks like “Decades” and “The Eternal”. These combined efforts along with the even darker and atmosphere overall in the Martin Hannett’s production ultimately to Closer being lauded as a gothic masterpiece, surpassing Unknown Pleasures which came out the previous year.

Bernard Sumner and Martin Hannett with an Arp Omni 2. This synthesizer gives tracks like “Decades” and “Heart and Soul” their distinctive sound.

Even the production’s only glaring mistake—the mishap with a razor in editing the end of “Isolation”, adds to the beauty of this flawless album.

The cover artwork for Closer was designed by both Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville. The photograph on the cover was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff, and is an image of Jesus and Mary from Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy.

The tomb is from the same cemetery that was also chosen for the sleeve for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Bassist Peter Hook would later personally visit these tombs for the first time in 2015, thirty-five years after the release of both the album and single.

Watch below the 2007 documentary on Joy Division, where Peter Saville comments that he, upon learning of singer Ian Curtis’s suicide, expressed immediate concern over the album’s design, remarking, “we’ve got a tomb on the cover of the album!”

Side A

  1. “Atrocity Exhibition”
  2. “Isolation”
  3. “Passover”
  4. “Colony”
  5. “A Means to an End”

Side B

  1.  “Heart and Soul”
  2. “Twenty Four Hours”
  3. “The Eternal”
  4.  “Decades”

Order the album here.

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