Various Artists - North By North West: Liverpool & Manchester from Punk to Post-Punk & Beyond 1976-1984
All you daughters and sons
who are sick of fancy music
We dig repetition
Repetition on the drums
and we're never going to lose it.
The Fall - "Repetition"
As a b-side, it may not be the most obvious Fall track to include but it sets the scene nicely. Two cities. Eight years of music. A thousand different sounds. Still reverberating.
Curated by Late Review regular Paul Morley, this 2-CD* set gathers together the heavyweights from the punk and post-punk scenes of Liverpool and Manchester, alongside more obscure releases from an incredibly fertile period of British music. And despite the ubiquity of tracks like "Boredom" or "Transmission", some of the material will be the kind of thing you'll be aware of, without having necessarily heard (i.e. Crispy Ambulance or Royal Family And The Poor).
There are so many cliches about the different scenes in both cities, but everything becomes more fluid as the discs unfold. True, the Manc material is generally more austere, but "Time Goes By So Slow" by The Distractions is a slice of pure Merseybeat if there ever was one and The Spitfire Boys' "British Refugee" - with future FGTH and Banshees members - is snottier than anything from the streets of Mosside.
A few of the Liverpool bands had a classic air that travelled well overseas (so we get a few John Hughes soundtrack moments) but it's blindingly obvious that even so-called pop stuff like early OMD still echoes through acts like Air, for example. And "Relax" is not only a truly great slice of British pop, it's also odd and disconcerting and entirely appropriate alongside the glacial ambience of the Durutti Column. So it's not quite so easy to dismiss the Mersey bands as being the more careerist - especially when faced with the likes of Big In Japan's raucous eponymous rant.
A textbook example of how a compilation should be put together then and one that proves the continuing relevance of the music - although you wonder whether anyone will ever pick up the PIL-esque baton of Section 25, rather than continually xeroxing Joy Division.
With such a rich seam of history to work with, how about other regional sets: Glasgow vs. Edinburgh perhaps?
A third bonus disc is available for a limited period.