I just found a list I compiled for a young person who wanted to track down the antecedents of the post-punk revival and original post-punk they’d been getting into. This isn’t quite that, but it’s some neglected favourites from the time. Education!
- Early stuff by A Certain Ratio, when Simon Topping was still singing. Probably the best is “Flight”, a soaring anthem of sublime beauty that nobody seems to mention any more and they really should. Their first cassette The Graveyard and the Ballroom carries the aesthetic all through, though it’s patchy as hell as a record (but the good bits are amazing).
- C Cat Trance’s frankly amazing version of “Dangling on a String.” A B-side, no less.
- Crispy Ambulance are the soul of patchiness. “Sexus” is a bit messy and frenetic, but does the job and is a good place to start.
- The kid hadn’t heard of Magazine. (Education these days!) Here’s the Peel Session version of “A Song From Under The Floorboards”. The rest of the session is on YouTube and worth tracking down.
- I’ve heard almost everything recorded by Section 25 and come to the conclusion I wasn’t much of a fan apart from “Looking from a Hilltop” (which is actually the aesthetic a few years after this aesthetic). But their first single, “Girls Don’t Count,” is quintessential early post-punk — it’s dull, thudding punk rock that knows it’s something more than that. (Produced by Ian Curtis, by the way.) Their first album Always Now is short on good songs, but has the sound if nothing else. “Dirty Disco” is representative and totally the aesthetic.
- Cabaret Voltaire “Seconds Too Late” has been one of my favourite singles since I was about seventeen. This is a live version, since Play It Again Sam have assiduously ensured no-one in the UK can hear the single on YouTube. (Here’s the single on Spotify.)
Hmm, three of these six are early Factory artists. (Four if you count the Cabs.) I suppose that’s to be expected and there are good reasons the label remains famous.