A Certain Ratio – Flight

16th April 2024 · 1980, 1980s, Music, Postpunk

When Tony Wilson signed A Certain Ratio to Factory Records in 1979 he told the world they were “the new Sex Pistols.” They weren’t, but they did leave their mark on Manchester music as one of the first bands to incorporate funk into an industrial take on postpunk.

Their debut, All Night Party, produced by Martin Hannett, was Factory’s first single release in September ’79: a month later I saw them at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

It’s fair to say I was confounded: I still regarded anything underground and independent as essentially ‘punk’ but bands like ACR, This Heat and 23 Skidoo, with their jerky, angular rhythms and experimental sounds, had nothing in common with the leather-jacketed thrashers of a year or two earlier.

I remember their song Shack Up being quite a big Thing at the time, and this song, Flight – again produced by Hannett – was their next release. One commenter describes it, succinctly, as a “kind of chilly psychedelic goth funk odyssey.”

After this they began to break free of Hannett, who they felt was making them sound too much like Joy Division – in 24 Hour Party People says ACR have “all the energy of Joy Division but much better clothes” – and forged their own path.

They began to incorporate disparate elements such as Latin and Cuban jazz into their “dark funk” and put out a dub record, Abracadubra, under the pseudonym Sir Horatio, before taking on the influence of New York disco – to the chagrin of skinny white boys with Joy Division badges.