Factory Records: Communications 1978-1992
By David Chiu
Those who saw the excellent 2003 film 24 Hour Party People got a glimpse of the music from Manchester, England record label Factory, co-founded by the colorful Tony Wilson. The label’s most famous acts were Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays but they were only part of the story, as this cool and wonderful box set—a digital-only release—attests. Lasting only 14 years, Factory released music that spanned post-punk to electronic New Wave to rave/acid house music, a.k.a. ‘Madchester.’ In between those dominant styles were pop, dance, reggae and experimental music.. In addition to its edgy, alternative sense of cool in the music, a huge part of that was due to producer Martin Hannett in the early days, Factory’s identity was also shaped visually through the innovative art of designer Peter Saville. Not suprisingly, most of the songs on Communications belong to Joy Division (“She’s Lost Control” Transmission, Love Will Tear Us Apart), New Order (“True Faith,” “Temptation,” “Blue Monday”) and Happy Mondays (“24 Hour Party People,” “Kinky Afro,” “Hallelujah”). But there are also some acts represented on the box including some well known (OMD’s early version of “Electricity,” James’ “Hymn to a Village”) and obscure as far as American tastes are concerned (The Durutti Connection, Section 25, The Distractions). The set also includes a booklet including an essay by Paul Morley and track-by-track annotations describing the history of this label and the important people behind it. If there was any proof of how cool and important Britain was to the history of alternative music, Factory Records stood out as the main example.