Mmmm, you’ve got to love that Martin Hannett snare sound. The brilliance of Factory Records in its infancy was, like most great record labels, its consistency. The records all looked the same and, with rare exceptions, largely sounded the same. To the outsider, the early works of [a]Joy Division[/a], A Certain Ratio and fellow Mancunians Crispy Ambulance, were near identical swathes of grey noise. This austere musical identity, however, didn’t necessarily favour the Ambulance.
Dismissed in their late-’70s/early-’80s heyday as shallow [a]Joy Division[/a] copyists in all apart from the most fanatical Euro-goth circles, these two CDs wrap up their entire career, the first comprising their three Factory releases, ‘The Plateau Phase’, ‘Live On A Hot August Night’ and ‘Sexus’, and the second touting their credentials as a live act.
While it’s a tough call to distinguish them from so many of their peers, this remains an enthralling enough glimpse at a moment in musical history when the DIY ethos of punk gradually gave way to experiments with electronics and song structures which made the early-’80s underground as fertile as any before or since. That they should also have the gumption to attempt Throbbing Gristle‘s ‘United’ on ‘Fin’ shows a playful face buried behind the upturned lapels of their raincoats.
Grim, grey and a bit throwaway, but nonetheless a 6/10 twice for having tried so hard.