I posted the track listing for my Factory Records mix on Thursday, but I changed it just now to add a couple of songs I downloaded earlier today. But almost all of the other songs in that playlist are from my own collection, and boy did I have a lot of records to pull. Going through the drawers of 7" singles and bookcases of LPs, I was able to amass quite a stack on my coffee table. Only two CDs though, both by Crispy Ambulance. Odd. I don't even own any New Order or Joy Division CDs! Plenty of vinyl though, that's for sure.
As I started reviewing the pile of records, I saw two I'd never even listened to, plus a couple I'd rescued from my "reject pile" of records to sell. (Hey, they were purchased for 25 cents each at a now-defunct New Orleans record store. Believe it or not, I've found more records on Factory and related labels in New Orleans than in any other city I've been to.)
Given that I'd never paid that much attention to Factory as compared to other labels (the trifecta: Rough Trade, Flying Nun, Postcard), listening to all these records was an interesting exercise. Some observations:
Below is a copy of the liner notes I made for my friends who will be receiving this mix as a CD. It's a mix of band info, historical perspective, plus my own semi-informed opinions. (Yes, I relied heavily on my reference library to write a few of these blurbs.) Also note that info on the Miaow and Section 25 tracks are missing, as those were the two late additions.
OMD - "Electricity" (3:32)
The very first single by Liverpool natives OMD, as well as one of the
first Factory releases. OMD moved to a major label
(DinDisc/Virgin) shortly after this, where they continued to record a
string of pop hits throughout the 80's (including that horrible song from
"Pretty In Pink" -- gack).
Joy Division - "Disorder" (3:31)
from Unknown Pleasures LP
Standout track from the first Joy Division album, selected simply because
it's one of my favorites. Another album track, "She's Lost Control" is
featured in the movie and on the official soundtrack.
Distractions - "Time Goes By So Slow" (3:23)
This is an odd one, an infectious slice of 60's power pop
that sounds nothing like any of the other Factory releases of that era.
But an excellent single.
The Durutti Column - "Sketch For Summer" (2:59)
from The Return of The Durutti Column LP
Remember that scene from the movie where Tony Wilson is the audience of
one at the Hacienda? That was Vini Reilly, aka The Durutti Column. This
one is from the first DC album, which is a delicate, all-instrumental
affair, spotlighting Reilly's fluid and somewhat jazzy solo guitar.
A Certain Ratio - "Flight" (5:59)
Funk as distilled through post-punk, this was a Top
10 indie chart hit for A Certain Ratio. One of the more overtly dance-y
Factory bands, they soon strayed from the atmospheric shimmer of this
Minny Pops - "Dolphin's Spurt" (2:51)
One of two singles that appeared on Factory by this
Dutch electro group. Harsh and angular in a way that's not quite my cup
of tea, but somewhat catchy. Went on to release a number of other records
on their own Plurex label.
Crispy Ambulance - "Concorde Square" (9:08)
from: Live On A Hot August Night 12" single
FAC BN 4 (Factory Benelux)
A Martin Hannett-produced career highlight from a band
that got tagged early on by the press as the poor man's Joy Division.
(The fact that lead singer Alan Hempsall stood in for Ian Curtis at a Joy
Division gig probably didn't help matters.) The first few minutes are an
angular tour-de-force, before sliding somewhat abruptly into a spooky echo
chamber of distant piano and background hums.
Crawling Chaos - "Creamo Coyl" (2:21)
from: The Gas Chair LP
FAC BN 6 (Factory Benelux)
Like The Distractions single, this is another weird, one-off song from a very minor Factory
band. A neat little 60's surf pastiche, complete with theremin-esque
backing vocals and girly "ah-ahs." But the rest of the album sounds
absolutely nothing like this and is in fact quite unlistenable.
Stockholm Monsters - "All At Once" (2:57)
Their sound fit right in on Factory, but this band was
actually formed by two brothers from none other than New York. They moved
to Manchester and went on to record one album and a series of rhythmic,
danceable singles with bits of odd instrumentation (horns, here; flute on
the debut "Fairy Tales" single).
The Wake - "Of The Matter" (2:53)
A softer sound from the Wake as compared to their
more austere early Factory releases, this song features layered synths,
hushed male and female vocals, all set over a percolating beat. In
keeping with the band's new sound, they would migrate a few years later to label Sarah Records, home of
lovelorn twee pop.
James - "What's the World" (1:56)
from: Village Fire EP
An early, peppy track from James who, much
like OMD, went on to much greater success after moving to a major label.
In the process they also changed their sound quite a bit, which is a
shame, as this song is a Grade A example of (just) pre-C86 jangle pop reminiscent of contemporaries Brilliant Corners
and Orange Juice.
New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle" (4:20)
from: Brotherhood LP
My favorite New Order song, and one of the best singles of the 80's. One of their
best-known songs (after "Blue Monday") and covered by countless bands
because it works on so many levels: a great dance track, hummable pop
tune, both musically sophisticated and lyrically personal. Dance music
for thinking people, indeed.
The Railway Children - "Brighter" (4:52)
The intro sounds as if it's been lifted
straight from "Uncertain Smile" by The The, but the skittering xylophones
match well with the frantically-strummed guitars and loping bassline.
Later moved to Virgin Records where they were a modestly successful indie
guitar band in the mold of The Mighty Lemon Drops.
Happy Mondays - "Wrote For Luck" (6:05)
from: Bummed LP
Massively-successful single, the
recording of which is portrayed in the movie, even if this song is missing
from the soundtrack. It could be about half as long and be enough Mondays
for me, but this one does have its charms.