Joy Division, Closer

Somewhat more of the same, and even against the throes of Ian Curtis' suicide I'm sorry to say I really expected more than that. The dirges and muddy vocals which seemed so original and organic on Unknown Pleasures come across as almost cynically deliberate the second time around — as an example, lead-off "Atrocity Exhibition" still oozes the same claustrophobic feel but the poppish "Isolation" right after it feels forced and its faux peppy electrobeat incongruous. I mostly blame Martin Hannett for this, but the band went along with it, so it can't all be his fault. And, in fairness, the recording's better this time; the presence of some actual technique makes it a bit more listenable. Fortunately the second side largely redeems the first: "Heart and Soul" manages to groove without being cloying ("A Means to an End" to a lesser extent), Curtis sings deeply and honestly amid piano and drums fed with gritty reverb in "The Eternal" and "Twenty Four Hours" makes the most of its grim milieu with his tunelessly emotive vocals sunk almost unintelligibly into a sharper, stronger rollercoaster riff. These all set up "Decades" well to close it out, even if its somewhat abrupt transitions can't carry itself the full way. One wonders what would have happened if there had been a third album, and he never had to meet his sad demise; New Order doesn't really seem an appropriate sequel nor stylistically its next logical step. The 2007 remaster includes a second live disc, as throwaway as most are, but it does include a solid rendition of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" which really should have made the album instead of banished to a single. But a great single, to be sure. (Content: intense emotional themes.)