A Certain Ratio were irresistibly drawn to the Samba and funk of the Americas
Matt Harvey 2002
Soul Jazz Records seem to be spearheading a revival of interest in the arty punk funk of the late seventies and eighties. Their recent compilation In the Beginning There Was Rhythm showed off the talents of 23 Skidoo, The Pop group, Cabaret Voltaire etc. They now present us with a collection of tracks from the masters of the genre - Manchester's A Certain Ratio.
Formed in 1977 the band were, along with Joy Division, the first signings to Tony Wilson's Factory Records. (All these tracks are culled from their time with the label) On early tracks like 'Flight' you can hear the similarities. This didn't last long. While Joy division were of a more Teutonic bent, A Certain Ratio were irresistibly drawn to the Samba and funk of the Americas. Where else could a punk band with a trumpeter go?
Their first (and probably biggest) hit was a hilarious cover of Banbarra's anti-marriage classic "Shack up". It became something of a cult track in New York dance clubs and even made it into the lower reaches of the US billboard charts. While visiting New York to promote the track they saw a Samba band playing in Central Park - overcome with "latin spirit" they went out the next day and bought congas, bongos and whistles. British music would never quite be the same again.
Well...that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But on listening to these tracks you can see why house music, as the 80s progressed, found a spiritual home in Manchester (it's not for nothing that Andy Wetherall cites ACR as his favourite band). Tracks like "Knife Slits Water" kick in a way that makes you think Joey Beltram might have spent his school holidays visiting a trendy uncle in Manchester. That's not to say the band were lacking in chart topping aspirations; 'The Fox' is reminiscent of Japan and "Life's a Scream" is pure pop fun.
So if the much heralded sounds of "synth core" don't rock your boat, but you fancy a bit of nostalgia for the days before Mrs. Thatcher lost her voice, you could do a lot worse than heading down the disco (not disco) to listen to the industrial future-pop featured here. Fire Engines revival, anyone?