No band that I remember now had the nerve to release a compilation with old recordings and live songs as their first official album, all absolutely lo-fi. And no label that I can remember had the balls to back such a gamble, probably doomed to shit. That’s exactly what A Certain Ratio and the Factory did in January 1980. And no, shit didn’t work out. Or if it did, Tony Wilson held the trip, as he always did.
The boss of the Manchester label and half the world bet their chips on ACR as ‘the new Joy Division‘, but despite the vocal similarity between Simon Topping and Ian Curtis, the bands being contemporary and countrymen, the group originating from the small suburb of Flixton was closer musically to Gang of Four e Glaxo Babiesor even Pop Group e Delta 5. In short, they wanted to make the English dance, not send them to the grave (nervous laughter, sorry for the bad joke).
In this footprint we arrive at The graveyard and the ballroom, the aforementioned debut of A Certain Ratio, which originally came out as a cassette tape featuring on its A side (The Graveyard) seven songs recorded at Graveyard studios in September 1979 and on the B side (The Ballroom), plus seven tracks recorded during a presentation by the group at the Electric Ballroom in October of the same year. And the result of this bet by Factory – produced by the brilliant Martin Hannett and with a cover by the equally brilliant Peter Saville – can be described in a crude way as everything that Rapture, Radio 4 and so many others wanted to be but never managed hahaha.
Post-punk yes, at times more eerie and static too, but most of the time jolting. letting the blatant influence of funk seep through the pores (and through guitar riffs/groove from the kitchen, especially in the bass lines), generating a bizarre but irresistible contrast. Press play on “Flight” and understand this duality.
The band is still active, their most recent album has just been released and is called 1982, but a conversation about him or any of the records ACR has released since 1980 is for another day. Today the thing is to (re)discover The graveyard and the ballroom.
Listen on the stalk!