Vast box set un­fold­ing “A Story Of In­de­pen­dent Mu­sic, Greater Manch­ester 1977-1993” is one hell of an in­ter­est­ing jour­ney.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents - By Pat Gil­bert.

Manch­ester boxed, Nick Lowe, Dusty Spring­field, Flo­rian Fricke, Black Sab­bath, Char­lie Rich, Ace­tone and Ella.



Manch­ester North Of Eng­land

In the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, this writer didn’t set foot in Manch­ester un­til he was 20 years old. The oc­ca­sion was the July 1986 ‘Fes­ti­val Of The Tenth Sum­mer’, an event staged at the newly in­au­gu­rated G-Mex Centre and fea­tur­ing, with hind­sight, a quite stag­ger­ing cast in­clud­ing New Or­der, The Smiths, The Fall, Pete Shel­ley, A Cer­tain Ra­tio, Cabaret Voltaire, John Cooper Clarke, Sex Pis­tols provo­ca­teur Bill Grundy, and more. It was, indis­putably, a mo­ment of self-re­al­i­sa­tion for the city: not only had it evolved in the 10 years since punk into the UK’s premier mu­si­cal metropo­lis, but now it was per­haps the cul­tural epi­cen­tre of the world. Manch­ester back then was still very much the derelict, post-in­dus­trial land­scape of Joy Di­vi­sion’s records – “a science fiction city,” as its fa­mous sonic ar­chi­tect, Martin Hannett, once ob­served, “all in­dus­trial ar­chae­ol­ogy, chem­i­cal plants, ware­houses… roads that don’t take any no­tice of the ar­eas they tra­verse.” The lo­cals were al­most im­pos­si­ble to im­press, but ex­hib­ited a com­mend­able mu­nic­i­pal spirit by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a new thing called a Mex­i­can Wave (pop­u­larised by that month’s World Cup). That sum­mer of ’86 roughly marks the mid­point of this epic 7-CD, 146-track sur­vey of Manch­ester’s mu­sic scene, span­ning the birth of punk to the ar­rival of Oa­sis, with a great deal of pi­o­neer­ing cold funk, pop, jan­gly in­die, techno and psychedelic rock in be­tween. That a sin­gle city should have pro­duced such an ocean of mu­sic, as well as ar­guably the great­est Bri­tish bands of the ’80s – The Smiths, New Or­der, The Fall, The Stone Roses – and sev­eral more unim­peach­ably bril­liant ones ei­ther side – Buz­zcocks, Joy Di­vi­sion, Oa­sis – isn’t im­me­di­ately ex­pli­ca­ble. But the DIY, anti-Lon­don mu­sic biz ethic pro­moted by Buz­zcocks’ Jan­uary 1977 Spi­ral Scratch EP cer­tainly ap­pears to have ap­pealed to the tough, in­de­pen­dently minded Man­cu­nian and Sal­ford tem­per­a­ment. There were other cru­cial fac­tors at work too: one was the fact that lo­cal ’70s pop crafts­men 10cc had built their state-of-the-art Straw­berry stu­dios in Stock­port, which to­gether with Pen­nine in Oldham and Cargo in Rochdale meant Manch­ester had ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties to cap­ture its tor­rent of punk-in­spired sounds. Lo­cal mu­sic nut Tosh Ryan was the un­sung hero of Manc’s post­punk blos­som­ing. His hand-to­mouth Ra­bid la­bel was soon home to a raft of ec­centrics in­clud­ing "IT WAS AF­TER THE CITY’S EARLY PUNK HAND GRENADES THAT IT REALLY DE­VEL­OPED ITS OWN SOUND AND IDEN­TITY." Slaugh­ter & The Dogs, The Nose­bleeds, Jilted John and John Cooper Clarke, be­fore he co-founded the artier Ab­surd im­print fea­tur­ing even quirkier acts such as 48 Chairs and the won­der­fully Manc sel­f­ref­er­enc­ing Bet Lynch’s Legs. Trans­lat­ing much of this early stuff onto vinyl fell to Manch­ester’s se­cret weapon – pro­ducer Martin Hannett, an au­ral sci­en­tist with a foren­sic ear for sound and a drink-and-drug prob­lem. It was af­ter the punk hand-grenades that pep­per this set’s first disc that the city’s mu­sic be­gan to de­velop a dis­tinc­tive sound and iden­tity, pri­mar­ily through the dark, Ex­pres­sion­is­tic record­ings of Joy Di­vi­sion (She’s Lost Con­trol here), to which Hannett’s glas­sine pro­duc­tion lent icy grandeur. Yet, as the se­quenc­ing shows, the chilling, fa­tal beauty of Joy Di­vi­sion was al­ready there in Mag­a­zine’s The Light Pours Out Of Me, recorded a year ear­lier in the first half of 1978. Manch­ester’s story takes flight, of course, with the ar­rival of Tony Wil­son’s Fac­tory Records and Haçienda club, his la­bel dom­i­nat­ing Discs 2 and 3 with the metic­u­lously con­structed sound­scapes of Du­rutti Col­umn and frigid synth-dance ex­per­i­ments of Quando Quango, Stockholm Mon­sters, Sec­tion 25, et al. But la­bels like Richard Boon’s re­ju­ve­nated New Hor­mones (of Spi­ral Scratch EP fame) of­fered an in­ter­est­ing coun­ter­point with the fey proto-jan­gle of the Pete Shel­ley-en­hanced Tiller Boys and glis­ten­ing new pop of Dis­lo­ca­tion Dance’s Rose­mary – though it’s the dystopian gui­tar noise of Dis­ci­pline by the rel­a­tive un­knowns Gods Gift that might­ily thrills here. Manch­ester’s in­dus­trial her­itage seemed pow­er­fully syn­er­getic with the city’s metro­nomic early ’80s elec­tro vibe, but the ar­rival of The Smiths – the only ma­jor band not rep­re­sented here (though their DNA is cap­tured on Mor­ris­sey’s Last Of The In­ter­na­tional Play­boys and Elec­tronic’s Get­ting Away With It) – in­evitably fu­elled an in­die gui­tar ex­plo­sion. But while the likes of James, Easter­house, Brad­ford and The Wal­tones proved that melan­cholic North­ern ru­mi­na­tions didn’t ex­clu­sively be­long to Moz and Marr, they also tele­graphed that great­ness couldn’t be be­stowed by a ‘M’ post­code alone. Happy Mon­days, The Stone Roses and In­spi­ral Car­pets there­after re­vi­talised Manch­ester’s dance and in­die strands, be­fore the two gen­res merged with the short­lived Mad­ch­ester ‘baggy’ move­ment, crowned here by The Char­la­tans’ nervy Spros­ton Green, it­self fol­lowed by the raw, mod­ern, MDMA-suf­fused techno/dance es­says of A Guy Called Ger­ald, 808 State, Ruth­less Rap As­sas­sins, Sub Sub and The Chem­i­cal Broth­ers. Cu­ri­ously, Disc 7, with its early ’90s psychedelic rock/pop con­tri­bu­tions from World Of Twist (the peer­less Sons Of The Stage), The Days (Fly) and Wonky Alice (Cater­pil­lars) is prob­a­bly the most en­joy­able; and it all poignantly ends with the seeds for a new be­gin­ning, with the rough-hewn, trippy 1993 demo of Oa­sis’s Columbia. To bring to­gether such a vast set with so many bighit­ters is a real feather in Cherry Red’s hat; and though it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily that con­ven­tion­ally playable, it is dizzingly com­pre­hen­sive and nu­anced (Ludus, Suns Of Arqa, Johnny Dan­ger­ously, Jean Go Solo, Smack, The Weeds, Life). And to dis­cover tracks like Thirst’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing Let Go or Laugh’s Time To Lose It is an ed­i­fy­ing, ex­cit­ing and ed­uca­tive ex­pe­ri­ence – just like Manch­ester it­self.

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