This post presents a very small slice of the earliest output of the band A Certain Ratio. It's intended for people who don't already know them well and who are generally into 1978-1982 postpunk, who like Gang of Four, Joy Division, or Public Image Limited, and/or who are interested in the Manchester, UK scene, 1977-1986.
A Certain Ratio (ACR) was a Factory Records band-mate of Joy Division and others, produced (in their early years) by JD’s producer/studio-translator, Martin Hannett, for better and for worse.
ACR was and was not conducive to the Joy Division treatment. They were a postpunk funk band that was also very gloomy in their early years. Balancing the funk and the gloom was the challenge, and I judge the official results to be extremely mixed. The band complained that Hannett often took the sound too far from the live band’s ethos, and I’d say that they were correct.
After/during the period documented here, ACR went to NYC on tour, inspired Talking Heads to funk it up, soaked up a ton of influences and percussion instruments – and leapt forward with their next LP, the postpunk masterpiece “Sextet,” in 1981, which is now available as a perfectly-executed double-CD. After “Sextet,” ACR would continue to evolve into a more mainstream funk band, sliding successfully into the “Madchester” scene. There is no release that documents their 1984-1986, 12-inch/EP output, but they gave New Order and Primal Scream worthy competition. They still exist, with their three essential/unchanging original members, releasing challenging music sometimes, and playing live sometimes.
Despite being an ACR super-fan, who collected and later meticulously ripped all of the original vinyl and cassette releases, I can’t fully endorse their earliest output. The vibe is consistent, if you’re in the mood for it, but the songwriting and the groove are inconsistent. One song, or version of a song, will lock into a great place, while another will be a cold fish. They were a young, experimental band, and they got it exactly right sometimes.
With today's single, LP, Peel Session, and live options, you can play to the strong points. The only reason I'm posting this mix is that I've been trying to find it since the early '80s, and I think I'm very happy with this "less is more than more" approach.
- Flight (The Graveyard, cassette rip)
- Loss (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
- Oceans (To Each vinyl rip)
- Choir (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)
- Forced Laugh (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
- My Spirit (To Each vinyl rip)
- The Fox (single, Early CD)
- Shack Up (single, Early CD)
- All Night Party (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)