Northern Stories 1978/80
The waning days of the recent post-punk resurgence is somehow an oddly fitting time for this compilation of Manicured Noise' rarities to see release. The band was one of the many bands that flew predominantly under the radar during the first wave of post-punk that was berthed in northern England. The band's practice space shared a wall with Joy Division's and they appeared semi-regularly at The Factory, but for whatever reason their music didn't resonate nearly as long as their contemporaries, which, as this collection proves, is a shame. With 18 tracks cobbled together from a list of disparate sources -- singles, live sessions, alternate mixes, etc. -- there's not much of a sense of cohesion or clarity on the whole to be found here, only terrific post-punk songs.
"Metronome" kicks things off with the group at their most explosive. The manic transcendence in Steve Walsh's vocals and serrating guitar meeting the locked-down rhythm section of Stephanie Nuttall and Jodie Taylor pays equal fealty to punk and funk. It's like a more aggressive Talking Heads. Elsewhere the band delves into spy-movie soundtrack instrumentals like "Moscow 1980," along with with covers of Lalo "Mission Impossible Theme" Schiffrin's "The Human Fly" and "Great White Whale" where the quickening pulse of reverb guitar and an ambient, murky dub treatment show a group that wasn't interested in rote recycling of the scene they were immersed in. Record store clerks should prepare for the inevitable third generation of post-punk revival by hiding the Gang of Four records and turning kids onto a slightly different flavor of dance-rock experimentation.