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Melody Maker 26/7/80 Album review by Paulo Hewitt Mourning glory JOY DIVISION: "Closer" (Factory Records FACT XXV). From the beginning we were always dealing with something special. Joy Division, by the very nature of their set up, could never have been just another band caught up in the insanity of musical manoeuvres. Stubbornly isolated away from the machinery, coming and going as they pleased, they never bowed to any demand except that of their own choosing. Everything was controlled and balanced, allowing them flexibility in all areas, from the choice of venue, to the giving away of singles without a murmur of fuss. They were too sensitive, too serious, too Joy Division, to be dragged down into an unwelcome destructive limelight. With their music, as evidenced on their debut album "Unknown Pleasures" and consequent singles, they began to fuse together a body of sound and vision that was unique. Naturally, the events surrounding Curtis's strange and violent action of three months cling unavoidably around "Closer", but it's interesting to note the matters Curtis was raising at the time with two recurring themes emerging. Religion and an almost fervent admission of defeat of whatever Curtis was hoping to achieve. "This is a crisis I knew had to come/Disturbing and purging my mind... I knew that I'd lose every time," he cries out in "Colony" while, later on, in "Twenty Four Hours", he admits: "Just for one moment I thought I'd found my way... I watched it slip away", before a great rush of music enters to sweep the song away. Elsewhere, confessional admissions of hopelessness and despair abound, ("I never realised the lengths I'd have to go") alongside scattered references to matters religious via phrases and words such as "inner communion", "God in his wisdom took you by the hand", and so on. Of course, the cover painting of Mary Magdalen mourning Jesus's dead body gives us fair warning of this, but what exactly is being communicated is, as always, left to the listener. Paradoxically, given the intense personal revelations of Curtis which run like fire throughout, the actual music is some of the most irresistible dance music we'll hear this year. When you're listening to something like "Means To An End" you have to realise that Joy Division have in Peter Hook and Stephen Morris one of the best rhythm sections going. Always precise, always tight and hard, they're the foundation on which Bernard Albrecht either lays over great savage wedges of disorientating noise or allows himself interplay with the bass, bouncing off it frequently with sweet, offsetting guitar lines that somehow always move on their own. With "Closer" too, the band enhance their atmospherics even further with the introduction of keyboards; like the music, they're always at a simple level, never imposing or outstaying their welcome and laying to waste the notion that Joy Division create difficult, inaccessible music. They don't. "The Eternal" enters with a swish of rattles, a solid bass and a magnificent haunting melody that complements perfectly Curtis's evocation of mood and atmosphere. In "Isolation", the melody is carried by the almost disarmingly simple synthesiser line that is pushed forward by some relentless drumming and brittle bass work. It's a far cry for sure from the almost suffocating claustrophobic world of the debut album, but the concerns are still the same. 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. In this age of grand illusion, fear and apprehension, Joy Division mirrored perfectly our lives and times. This is the way. Step inside. - PAULO HEWITT

Last updated on 2005-03-07 10:12:00 PM - 10:12:00 PM
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