Various Factory Records Communications 1978-92
Get It At Discogs
Disc 1 kicks off with the most important track from the double 7" "A Factory Sample", "Digital" by Joy Division. It still stands up as one of the purest examples of latent energy in pop music and set the stall out for the revered band's future. The next track by Cabaret Voltaire, "Baader Meinhof", is just as important - it heralded the introduction of one of Britain's most important electronic bands who cruelly dipped under the radar for far too long - uneasy listening made by Sheffield's pioneers. Factory gave them a bunk-up to the heights of Rough Trade before a brief sojurn with Factory in 1982 with the John Robie-mixed "Yashar" (included here). Other contributions come from A Certain Ratio, Section 25, OMD, The Distractions and The Names, all seriously under-rated and caned by the media back in the day plus the slightly more accepted Durutti Column weighing in with the beautiful "Sketch For Summer". Just about every track here was produced and mixed by the label's eccentric Spector-esque soundsmith, Martin Hannett. You can hear just how ahead of the times he was with the smash-snare sound and sparse dub-washed drum and bass sounds employed on much of the label's first 40 releases. The Names' "Nightshift" brings this home more than any other track on this 4 cd set and remains one of Factory's true missed opportunities for a hit. "Dolphin's Spurt" by Holland's Minny Pops is also a landmark single - brutal electro beats and monologue moodisms mixed with gravel-ditch deep basslines. Hannett was very very good at making sounds sound human and alien all at the same time. Check the remix of "She's Lost Control" by Joy Division here - even though the sleeve notes claim this is the album version - doh! The remaining discs run chronologically (to a degree) and are, by turns, captivating, annoying and stunning in almost equal measure. Compiler Jon Savage and archiver (and LTM label boss) James Nice have done a good job overall but I have to baulk at the inclusion of Royal family & The Poor's "Art On 45" over a track from their much-underrated pair of LPs...aside from this the disc is faultless. A few tracks from Belgian neighbours, Factory Benelux, makes sense although perhaps a free bonus EP disc of tracks from the Brussels label might have made more sense. Anyhow, the most important electro-disco single of all time is on disc 2 - "Everything's Gone Green" (the 12" version despite the sleevenotes) by New Order was so far ahead of the times it has gone beyond legend. Forget "Blue Monday" (awesome though it is), EGG is a blinder....crashing, clattering drums - hi hats from heaven and an eerie bass note that sounds like the Titanic's last breath.....I have seen kids cry to this.... Disc 3 catches up with the post-New York scene in style. Quite how Section 25 and 52nd Street didn't acheive an appearance on Top Of The Pops for the tracks "Looking From A Hilltop" and "Can't Afford" has been and always will be beyond me......sheer pop wrapped in a film of bitterness did not sit well with radio in those days - but clearly the former track did having been hammered by DJs in the States and over here (including me). It still sounds like it came out last week. Closing track, "24 Hour Party People" by Happy Mondays, eludes to the days of Madchester and the second wave of anarchy at the label. Money was spent on zany trips to Barbados and Ibiza for it's artists plus a £30,000 table for their new offices....yet the kids were lapping up the Hacienda classics, "Reach For Love" by Marcel King and "Hallelujah" by the Mondays and chalking up huge consumption levels of every shape and colour of tablet this side of Boots whilst dodging bullets. And that is where it all started to go a bit awry....suddenly 5 hetrosexual men (the directors of the label) were faced with death...of their previous icon, Ian Curtis, their wonderful studio enigma, Hannett, the boisterous yet lovable manager of New Order, Rob Gretton....and the death of their bank balance, drained in part by the incomprehensible incidents at their beloved (and hated) nightclub in Whitworth Street. Disc 4 - listen and weep.
A Rough Trade box set would never make sense, a Mute box set just might, a 4AD box set certainly would. But a Factory box set makes absolutely no sense whatsoever - which is why you should invest in this reasonable attempt at documenting one of Britain's finest 15 years of music, full stop. My only gripes are reserved for missing tracks - "Partyline" by the Stockholm Monsters (an anthem), "Elegia" by New Order, "Crazy Wisdom" by Section 25 (since there are a few Fac Benelux tracks here), "Arpeggiator" by Durutti Column, "Caught" by Anna Domino and the heavily-sampled "N'sel Fik" by Fadela...but all in all a good effort to gather the very best of Factory under one roof. What a story.