At 18 tracks, this compilation approximates the energy and underground culture of the industrial British city of Manchester, which occasionally rivals aristocratic London with its working-class moxie and rebel beats. Five of the assembled songs -- if you include New Order and Moby's cover of "New Dawn Fades" -- are original compositions by Joy Division, a band that still casts a shadow over the gloomy dispositions of suburban rockers everywhere. Following the suicide of leader Ian Curtis, Joy Division reincarnated as New Order and opened up a new avenue of expression that flirted conspicuously with newly emerging electronic studio technology. That split between punk rock and electro-disco is all over 24 Hour Party People: Robust rock tracks from the Clash ("Jonie Jones") appear alongside influential DJ Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body," 808 State's trancey "Pacific State" and New Order's own dance-floor opus "Blue Monday."
From the late '70s to the early '90s, most of Manchester's musical output was released through the Factory label, which operated as a launch platform for New Order and its friends. This explains the factory-style graphic placed behind the stereotyped dance club cutouts on the CD's sleeve art. At the time, the factory emblem symbolized the scene's lower-class roots and its machinery-driven musical philosophy; those elements are represented on 24 Hour Party People by the inclusion of the Durutti Column's studio-enhanced bass track "Otis," as well as A Guy Called Gerald's early house track "Voodoo Ray." Opening with the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK," which inaugurated European punk, and ending with Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," a track that fuses angry sentiment with pristine electro-balladry, 24 Hour Party People not only freezes a moment, it delivers a red-alert message to a contemporary scene digging its way out of a pop confectionery hellhole.