|1. Atrocity exhibition|
|5. A Means To An End|
|6. Heart & Soul|
|7. Twenty Four Hours|
|8. The Eternal|
It has been said that Ian Curtis' girlfriend (or wife) said that Closer sounded a lot like a Genesis record. As much as their initial love for high energy punk as well as David Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy," Joy Division inadvertantly did create a Genesis-style concept album about the events and emotions leading to Ian Curtis' suicide in May 1980, months before this album hit shelves. However, Joy Division manages to avoid the cliches of a rock opera (particularly those like Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or even The Who's rock operas), particularly with no surreal or austere plot, off-rhythms, theatrics and 10 minute dramatic extravaganzas. Instead, the sound of Closer is cold, clinical, dreary and at times, disturbingly beautiful, so thus, no concept story or theatrics are necessary. Instead, a conceptual tension reveals itself through each of the 9 songs.
This could be a reference to Ian Curtis' epilepsy and how it affected his performances (" For entertainment they watch his body twist/Behind his eyes he says: I still exist"), or his distaste for what people consider entertainment. Events such as bullfighting and pro wrestling are in question in terms of "Killing for a prize" but it could also be a suicidal reference or a decay in Curtis' mental health, since his seizures onstage took a toll on him physically and mentally. As for the "mass murder on a scale you have never seen" could also reveal his private anguish.
It seems like a reflection of Curtis' epilepsy, the effect it had on his other people and his pain as a result on it. There are also references to an affair he had with someone else and his failing marriage.
More pain, and self-deprecation. It also seems like it reveals his thoughts of suicide, and/or the consequences of his affair ("This is a crisis I knew had to come.")
Severe marital problems are plaguing Ian's life at this point, and he feels that he is alone in a colony of failure, illness and lack of security.
A MEANS TO AN END:
"I put my trust in you" epitomizes this song. Probably more relationship problems with his wife or friends.
HEART AND SOUL:
This is where the album and the story gets overwhelmingly somber and dark. It contains more references to his affair and marriage("Instincts that can still betray us /A journey that leads to the sun /Soulless and bent on destruction /A struggle between right and wrong") and his lack of forgiveness, presumably from both parties, him and his wife ("I'd humbly ask for forgiveness/A request well beyond you and I"). He also seems to acknolwedge the fact that the marriage may be irreperable ("Foundations that lasted the ages/Then ripped apart at their roots"). It also shows his destructiveness, his mortality and his thoughts of suicide ("Existence-well what does it matter?"). In my opinion, he was torn between living, having his marriage crumble, and face a life of bitterness and illness or killing himself and damning his soul for his sin (suicide). One of them had to be sacrificed ("Heart and soul/One will burn"). His birthday was on July 17th, so he was a Cancer. Cancers naturally are sensitive people, resistent to change and chaos, so since Curtis probably had that personality, he ultimately chose to "burn" his soul since living would questionably destroy his sweetness or whatnot.
This was probably crucial to Ian's suicide, since he was looking for an easy way out of his pain and suffering, since this "treatment takes too long," probably referring to the barbituates he took for his epilepsy or marriage counseling. He saw no other way out probably. Musically, this song is also critical to the plot, since the 6/8 frenzy of the verse could reflect Ian's thoughts, which probably were of panic, hopelessness and anxiety, and the ending section could represent the actual suicide.
"Procession moves on, the shouting is over
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
Talking aloud as they sit round their tables
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain."
Musically, it sounds like a funeral procession, and probably represents the memorial service for the fallen. This song is overwhelmingly dismal, and could bring up the unanswered questions on why one would kill himself ("No words could explain, no actions determine").
It closes off the album beautifully, yet just as hopeless and bleak as it started. It could represent an outsider's view of his personality, and how his illness affected his personality, epitomized during the first two verses, especially "Knocking the doors of Hell's chambers."
That's my analysis of the underlying concept of Joy Division's "Closer." Real pain, hopelessness, self-pity, mental and physical illness, and crumbling relationships, leading to one final act of self destruction and supposed closure within the tortured soul, yet opening wounds for everyone around him, including those who listen to this. There has never been a more depressing record than "Closer" and it is post-punk's magnum opus.
Now the review.
I was just trying to come up with an opening phrase that could collect the greatness of this album, and I couldn't. Read more
Man, is this stuff ever depressing. I glad they ditched the singer and turned up the synths!