Radio Quarantine – Joy Division: Closer (1980)

My life in 1980 was still mostly rivers and dams and forests and wildlife. It was still mostly organic, though life had brought me to existing part of the year in an array of brutalist tower blocks on a disused runway on Long Island. That was an alien world, less trees and more cars and concrete. Life was changing. We went from hiding in forests to hiding in cars with pauses in sweeping parking lots. The feeling, my feeling, was one of cold isolation, despite never actually being alone. The sounds were harder. The drugs were colder and meaner. There’s a bitter irony to having one’s world and future open up. It’s difficult to see the wonder of infinite possibility when all of a sudden you feel very, very small and maybe even insignificant. Most of my reference points for self-identification and self-validation had gone missing. Dissolution of self… The Buddhists would say that’s a noble goal, but it’s terrifying. The realization is frightening, that there are so many possibilities that what one has always held true and sacred may not mean anything at all, and the world at large doesn’t care.

“Thus each of us had to be content to live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky.” ~ Albert Camus

I felt like any single one of these drum beats or jagged, angular guitar chords, pained and raw. I felt like broken glass. But the soundtrack should fit the mood, no? My undying devotion to Joy Division may even seem perverse after that little outburst but it’s quite the opposite. It’s not a warm comfort but they never intended it to be. It’s not nostalgia in any conventional sense. It’s more like the exhilaration of remembering the pain of birth itself. It’s like somehow having the most remote and earliest memories exhumed with a sharp spoon. That’s not going to sell you on the music but that’s not the point is it? Not at all, Early on I always thought Joy Division resembled madness and claustrophobia. It was only looking at it from the other side that I realized how wide open and vast it is. It’s a frighteningly indeterminable stretch between the past and future. It explores what’s been denied and closed off, the area between abject denial and facing the truth. And it definitely strips away the flower power bullshit we had tried to lace The Universe with. What had flower power done for the “new generation” anyway but replace one don’t-worry-be-happy illusion with another? You can never come to acceptance of what really is until you’re willing to look at the full scope of the psychedelic experience.

I’ve never looked into what exactly Joy Division was referring to they recorded these songs and called the album Closer. I’d like to think they meant closer to truth. That may be wishful thinking on my part. Maybe not.

There are 80s albums I can look back on and feel that warm nostalgia. They are mostly the ones that sound somehow very dated for one reason or another. They are usually tied to specific experiences or encounters or people I look back on fondly. Closer though is more deeply personal. It’s kind of a chronicle or a roadmap for the journey that followed. I can trace everything now back to the point where I first felt this way, alone under the vast indifference of the sky. And to be perfectly clear I have never felt more free than now at this end of my rope. It was necessary to experience and feel every last piece of it though to get here.

I’m just saying.

I could live right here forever. Not in this physical space. Physical space is irrelevant. I mean the inner space that I’ve arrived at because I found the courage to face real. It’s all good.

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