A Certain Ratio – ‘It All Comes Down To This’ album review: funk-ridden electronic innovation

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A Certain Ratio – ‘It All Comes Down To This’

THE SKINNY: We’ve all been there. You go to a concert to see a band of a certain vintage, they announce some new material, and half the audience promptly leaves for the bar. The sad fact seems to be that most artists’ creativity deteriorates with age, and as such, their work becomes half-hearted regurgitations of something they had first conjured up as hopeful adolescents. Curiously, Manchester’s A Certain Ratio are one of the few groups whose new material continues to, in many ways, eclipse their early work, as It All Comes Down To This exemplifies. 

For the uninitiated, you might come into this album with a certain set of prejudices. Given that A Certain Ratio first formed in 1977, you would be forgiven for thinking that this album is a simple rehashing of a sound that went out of style decades ago. To an extent, It All Comes Down To This does contain some sense of nostalgia for those early days of post-punk electronica, but it is also steadfast in its desire to drive the sound forward into the future. Awash with innovation and experimentation, the record is representative of a group at the top of their game. 

As well as being a fairly progressive effort for the band, this new album – the band’s 13th studio effort – also maintains an infectious quality to the material. Embracing the styles of funk, no wave and avant-garde that the band have become known for, this album is further populated by dance and even electro-psych influences. The album also has something of a dark atmosphere on many pieces, apparently resulting from an accident which left Jez Kerr hospitalised. The effect of these eclectic sounds is an album that never feels too stuck in one place, yet the track listing flows incredibly well.

At this point, after nearly five decades in the business, nobody can doubt the intense musical proficiency of A Certain Ratio. However, this record is certainly helped along by Dan Carey’s production. Carey has a lot to answer for in terms of populating a post-punk sound that has infiltrated nearly every aspect of the scene. Still, he is certainly at his best on this record, creating an uncompromising sound to match the uncompromising nature of the Manchester-based group.

For fans of: Boring everybody at the house party by talking endlessly about the revolutionary power of Moog synthesisers.

A concluding comment from the ghost of Tony Wilson: “Why oh why didn’t they write anything like this when they were signed to Factory? We might have still been going.”

It All Comes Down To This track-by-track:

Release Date: April 19th | Producer: Dan Carey | Label: Mute

‘All Comes Down to This’: Seamlessly blending the old-school and new, this song is an incredible and infectious album opener which stands up to A Certain Ratio’s most beloved tracks from throughout their discography. [5/5]

‘Keep It Real’: The opening bars of this track seem to take an unconventionally bland rock avenue for the band, but as the song continues, there are increasing sensibilities of the A Certain Ratio weirdness that we all know and love. [4/5]

‘We All Need’: A dark, brooding atmosphere permeates through this song, spurred along by the effortlessly cool vocals of Kerr. [4/5]

‘Surfer Ticket’: No, this piece does not see A Certain Ratio take on Beach Boys-esque surfer rock, but it does see the band continue their dark and provocative sound. [4/5]

‘Bitten by a Lizard’: Certainly wins the competition for the best song title on this album and also sees the group embrace elements of psychedelia. The guitar riff at the beginning of the track is particularly reminiscent of Anatolian psychedelic rock, though blended with the distinctly Mancunian sounds of A Certain Ratio. [4.5/5]

‘God Knows’: The influence of Dan Carey’s production work is particularly evident on this piece. It would not sound out of place if released via Speedy Wunderground, though thankfully, the band manages to mix it with that distinctive Mute sound. [3/5/5]

‘Out From Under’: Embracing the funk sound with which many associate the group, this is among the strongest efforts on the album. Kerr’s bassline is a particular highlight, almost reminiscent of New York heroes ESG, who the group played with once upon a time back in the 1980s. [5/5]

‘Estate Kings’: Adopting a spoken word performance backed by Roy Ayers-esque funk, this song should be commended for its innovation and variety. This is one of those pieces where you can discover something new with every listen. [4.5/5]

‘Where You Coming From’: At the point of an album in which most artists would begin winding down, A Certain Ratio throw themselves headfirst into funk and dance music. I would defy anybody to listen to this song while remaining still. [4.5/5]

‘Dorothy Says’: Despite not being a cover of ‘Candy Says’, this song definitely takes some influence from the experimentation of The Velvet Underground. It is often said that the best records are the ones which leave you wanting more, and ‘It All Comes Down To This’ certainly achieves that feeling. [4/5]

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