A Certain Ratio
Being born post-punk and punk-funk while punk rock was still a burgeoning thing in 1977 was no small feat. But there was Manchester’s odd lot A Certain Ratio (named for a line in an Eno song) forging a unique, rough-sketched, lo-fi vibe from punk’s abrasive, guitar-strewn sound with rhythmic clicks of R&B and bits of brassy jazz and Brazilian music to give it a swift, Talking Heads-y kick just in time for Factory Records’ first golden era. Calling their first album The Graveyard and the Ballroom was just about right for where ACR was in 1979.
Somehow, nearly 50 years later, ACR manage to stay crisply curt and reinvent their wheeling, skeletal, soulful dance-floor groove on 1982 with the help of local vocalist Ellen Beth Abdi and rapper Chunky (on “Waiting on a Train”), again, to concoct something sunshiny and frisky without denying their aggro past. More warmly and smoothly produced than any album in their past, 1982 asks itself the personal (or is it musical?) question: “Are you moving forward or are you on a constant curve?”
The trio offer up this question through the electro snap of “Constant Curve” and never let up from that point forward, touching on everything from the Basquiat-filled, Bowie-“Fame”-ish “Samo” before it to the self-loving, free jazzy “Ballad of ACR” to make their poignant points about the culture from which they were born, and the story of which they must live up to. And if you can’t work up a sweat to the kinky percussion overdrive of “Holy Smoke,” you’re dead, son, get yourself buried.