Various Artists – 24 Hour Party People

It’s time for the last of our movie soundtrack reviews for the time being, and this time for a film that I have actually seen, and as I recall enjoyed very much, the history of Factory Records, 24 Hour Party People.

Given the nature of the subject matter, you can obviously expect a lot of Joy Division, New Order, and Happy Mondays, but it begins back in 1977 with defining the Sex Pistols track Anarchy in the UK. Listening now, nearly forty years on, it’s surprising quite how tame it sounds – is this really the same record that got so many people worked up?

The first of three Happy Mondays tracks is next, with 24 Hour Party People, remixed by Jon Carter. Despite not knowing them particularly well as a band, I think it’s fair to say that this probably isn’t their finest hour – it’s era defining, and a great choice for title track, but it’s also a little bit overwrought at times.

Joy Division were really the act that defined Factory Records, and so it is only right that there would be four of their tracks on here – well, five, arguably. The first is the brilliant Transmission, representing the early sound of the record company.

It’s then time for a bit of a sidestep for some other music from the era, with The Buzzcocks‘ brilliant Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have), and then The Clash‘s Janie Jones, which is good, but less exciting. Either way, your transition to the late 1970s should be pretty solid by this stage.

The next track is exclusive, as Moby joins New Order for a live performance of the Joy Division track New Dawn Fades. Moby has long been a fan of this particular track, having recorded a cover version for the b-side of Feeling So Real back in 1996, and he gives it all he can on this version. But I’m not sure he really gives Ian Curtis‘s lyrics the performance they deserve. I wonder if anybody could.

Another slice of actual Joy Division follows, with Atmosphere, taking us into the 1980s, before time starts really jumping around to The Duruitti Column‘s brilliantly ethereal 1989 track Otis. Then comes A Guy Called Gerald‘s once iconic acid house piece Voodoo Ray, which has to now be one of the most dated tracks on this entire album.

New Order always had their ups and downs, and I’ve never been entirely convinced by Temptation. The lyrics are among Bernard Sumner‘s weakest, the vocal isn’t particularly well delivered, and the instrumentation is a little uninspired. What it does do is represent its era perfectly – few tracks would represent the Factory Records of 1987 in the way this one does.

Next up is a great moment from Happy Mondays, with Loose Fit from 1990, again very much reflecting its age, but somehow sounding really good for it. And the era-defining sound of Pacific State by 808 State follows. It feels as though this is a soundtrack for an era of music more than a film – a particular type of music, admittedly.

We’re then briefly transported back to 1983 for the superlative Blue Monday by New Order, without a doubt their finest hour, before house music arrives with a vengeance in the form of Marshall Jefferson‘s Move Your Body.

The tail end of this soundtrack is probably either unnecessary or euphoric, depending on how you feel about the Factory Records roster of artists, as it basically just retreads the ground we’ve been treading for the last hour or so. Not having had any Joy Division for a while, it’s about time we heard the brilliant She’s Lost Control, and then more Happy Mondays with the fantastic Hallelujah, which surely never sounded this good?

There’s then an exclusive new track from New Order, Here to Stay, which was subsequently also a single. It’s good – it’s got all the iconic pieces of New Order, particularly in this longer version where it does sound like one of their 1980s 12″ versions. But somehow it isn’t entirely satisfying. Not in the way that the last track, the essential Love Will Tear Us Apart is, anyway. Quite why Joy Division never included it on either of their albums was always a bit of a mystery to me – it’s such an amazing song, and so well delivered.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that 24 Hour Party People is the best of the movie soundtracks which we’ve reviewed recently – it has some weaker moments, but they are few and far between, and every track is clearly there with good reason. If you’re in the market for an album to introduce you to the world of music, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

You can find 24 Hour Party People – Music from the Motion Picture at all major retailers, such as this one.

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