Fortieth anniversaries for post-punk outfits are coming thick and fast, with veteran Factory/Mute stalwarts A Certain Ratio the latest band to commemorate the end of their fourth decade.

ACRThey do so in quite some style with ACR:BOX, a 4CD or 7LP set of singles, B-sides and 26 previously unreleased tracks. It kicks off with the sparse, twitchy 1977 proto-Joy Division All Night Party, notable for being the first single ever released on Factory.

Yet ACR have always been more than ‘mere’ miserabilists: indeed, their wilful, hard-to-pigeonhole eclecticism probably explains their utter lack of mainstream commercial success. They knew how to funk: it’s hard to believe
Happy Mondays weren’t influenced by Knife Slits Water or Shack Up (the latter track remixed by Electronic, aka Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr).

They go the extra mile here, with 26 bonus tracks of unreleased material including a demo cover of Houses In Motion by Talking Heads, whom they supported in the late 1970s (reportedly giving David Byrne some funky new ideas as they did so). Perennial frustrating nearly men they may be, but the sprawling ACR:BOX shows that A Certain Ratio, at their taut best, had a brittle brilliance.

6/10

Ian Gittins

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