Local Wire

A Certain Ratio

It was inevitable that part of the fallout of the post-punk/punk-funk riot that recently wrapped its icy fingers around indie rock would be voracious crate-diggers starting to work back through history, excavating any overlooked band that roughly approximated the bass-bulging and jittery riffing taking up hourlong blocks on MTV2. One of those bands was A Certain Ratio, runtish younger sibling of Joy Division and perennial NME whipping boy for all that was wrong with the Factory Records sound. Time has been kind to these Mancunians: A 2003 SoulJazz compilation found their white-boy funkiness had aged just fine, and this recent live release, taken from the band's 1985 trip to America, shows that they weren't purely reliant on studio trickery. Captured mere seconds before the band fell off the deep end into bad jazz wankery, Live America instead finds ACR balancing rough funk riffs with misty goth keyboards and stern, bellowing vocals. A Certain Ratio's cover of Chic's "Shack Up" is positively menacing, all lunging guitars and whip-crack snare percussion. Ditto the grim "Flight," which slithers and pulses like early Gary Numan. And though the sound quality tends toward the muddy side, the imperfection only adds a sinister edge to the band's sneering songs. While A Certain Ratio may have Bloc Party to thank for its recent rediscovery, listening to the herky-jerk graveyard rock of Live America 1985 proves that street runs two ways.
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J. Edward Keyes