Probably the best collection of music representing an entire generation from a specific time and place is contained here. 24 Hour Party People is an independent film showcasing the rise of Factory Records from the late '70s/early '80s Manchester punk, to the birth of '90s rave culture. The soundtrack flows excellently from the very start as the Sex Pistols begin the journey with their well-known anthem, “Anarchy in the UK.” For history’s sake, the Sex Pistols were the band that inspired the Manchester scene. As it goes, there was a show in 1976 at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, put on by the Buzzcocks, with the Sex Pistols to perform for the first time in Manchester. According to eye witness Tony Wilson, head of Factory Records and all around badass, only 42 people were at that show. What came to be was the emergence of artists like the Stiff Kittens, later to become Warsaw, who then became Joy Division, who later ended as New Order; the Buzzcocks (already established); Mick Hucknall who started Simply Red; and local legend, “John the Postman.” Also in attendance was producer Martin Hannett who would go on to work with JD and countless others, making the sound of Manchester known throughout the world.
The Happy Mondays are the second selection, with the title track song to the film. Interesting to note is Shaun Ryder’s deeper voice on this early recording. He would later drop this for a softer melodic approach. The album then goes back a bit to the early days of the scene with JD’s song, “Transmission.” Following that is the Buzzcock’s “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone you Shouldn’t’ve?)," a very catchy number from their Singles Going Steady album. Next up is the Clash with, “Janie Jones.” Tony Wilson at the time hosted the show So It Goes which showcased up-coming bands from around Europe and abroad. The Clash were one of the many selected by Tony, thus cementing his talent in picking out great artists and being ahead of his time. Following such an awesome couple of numbers is what I consider the album's only weak point and that’s a live NO cover of the JD song, “New Dawn Fades,” featuring Billy Corgan and Moby. Not to downplay the artists' talents by any means, this live cover comes off as gimmicky and not really worth its addition to the soundtrack. It wasn’t even featured in the film and hearing NO play JD tracks just feels weird with Moby trying his best to impersonate Ian Curtis.
Track seven, “Atmosphere,” is another JD tune and it serves as the mid-point. This was considered the turning point for Factory Records after Ian tragically committed suicide; Manchester music and times were changing, becoming much more dance/electronic oriented. “Otis” by the Durutti Column proceeds next and is one of the more interesting songs here. It’s sort of a cross between new wave/post-punk/and the town theme music from The Legend of Zelda II. Guitarist Vinni Reilly is seriously underappreciated and his use of samples in his mostly instrumental songs was unlike most post-punk acts at the time.
And then there’s the dance music. This is the divider between punk and rave, whereas punk and some form of dance mixed well, rave and punk do not (Don’t mention the garbage that’s floating around these days in regards to that statement…). A Guy Called Gerald, also known as DJ Gerald Simpson, was known for his early work in the acid house scene and his single “Voodoo Ray” became one of the most cherished songs of rave culture. NO appear once again with perhaps their best song, “Temptation.” There is no way to describe this other than awesome. “Up down turn around / Please don’t let me hit the ground / Tonight I think I’ll walk alone / I’ll find myself as I go home.” Drug use never sounded as catchy as this for some time. “Oh you’ve got green eyes / Oh you’ve blue eyes / Oh you’ve got red eyes / Oh I’ve never met anyone quite like you before.”
The Happy Mondays come back with their song “Loose Fit” and like their latter listed track, “Halleujah,” are one of the main focuses during the second half. They pretty much represent the drug filled excess of the '90s “Madchester” culture and the demise of Factory Records and the famous Hacienda venue. Still, the Happy Mondays were one of the best bands to grow out of Manchester and Tony Wilson stood by them till the end, often quoting Shaun Ryder as a poet (The history of the band goes even further down as details of domestic violence and drug addiction caused the band to break up…). "Loose Fit" is a great song with very nice, catchy riffs and the wonderful back-up vocals of Rowetta Idah. 808 State arrive next and bring forth their song, “Pacific State.” It’s a nice little jazzy, early electronic influenced song, but is very soon trumped by NO’s absolute classic, “Blue Monday.” Clocking in around seven-and-a-half-minutes, "Blue Monday" was one of the longest songs on the U.K. charts and the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time. Regarded as the most important crossover synth-pop song of the '80s, "Blue Monday" ushered in the early dance craze, and inspired countless others to copy its style. The minimal looped drum patterns, orchestrated synths and eerie vocals of Bernard Summer set in stone what NO would become after hanging up the JD cloak. In all respect, this is probably where JD were heading in their future endeavors and Ian probably saw that.
Marshall Jefferson appears with his dance-pop hit, “Move Your Body,” which only holds up the album until JD’s powerful classic, “She’s Lost Control” takes the reigns. What was so profound, yet unpredictable at the time was Ian Curtis’s future problems with seizures. "She’s Lost Control" was written about a young girl he witnessed having a seizure in front of him while working as a civil servant. This incident led him to fear being in that same position, which in turn inspired his hollowing lyrical genius in later songs.
NO appear for the last time with their Chemical Brothers-produced track, “Here to Stay.” It’s the only newly recorded track for the film and it was played during the closing credits. It’s catchy, atmospheric and a great demonstration of how far NO had come by this time. And very much like the appropriately opening of the album, the soundtrack closes with JD’s first chart single, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” There isn’t any other song that tops that track as far as post-punk/goth/new wave/dance music goes. JD were way ahead of their time and Ian Curtis was a gift given and, sadly, taken away.
While other artists featured in the film like Iggy Pop, the Jam, the Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees and A Certain Ratio are not included on this soundtrack, it doesn’t take away from its picturesque quality. If you ever wanted to just dive into a specific area of music, then give this film and its wonderful soundtrack a listen.