Attempting to document the aesthetic and spiritual transition from Manchester to "Madchester," the soundtrack to Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film is a quick primer on the Factory Records saga and the songs that propelled it. Set in motion by the timelessly vitriolic "Anarchy in the U.K.," its inclusion is key to the legend that the Sex Pistols pried open the third eye of label founder Tony Wilson during their 1976 Manchester Free Trade Hall gig. With his vision firmly imprinted, Wilson set off to be Manchester's chief impresario and, apart from the other two punk inclusions (the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love?" and the Clash's "Janie Jones"), the remainder of the compilation outlines the legacy that he stumbled upon and at times fostered. Certainly Wilson's signing of Vini Reilly's Durutti Column, while perhaps not pivotal, shows that the one-time TV host had a keen ear. "Otis" is one of the few uplifting moments among the non-dance selections here that simultaneously showcases Reilly's overlooked talent. Other proper selections include 808 State's breezy sax/synth hit, "Pacific State," and one of the Hacienda Club's fave moments, A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray." Unfortunate choices include the Happy Mondays song that serves as the title for the compilation and the film, and the Moby-tainted version of Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades." There's also some wonder as to how the awkward "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson found its way into this mix instead of A Certain Ratio's "Shack Up" single (which reached the American R&B Top 50). The Joy Division content ("Transmission," "Atmosphere," "She's Lost Control," and the closer, "Love Will Tear Us Apart"), while predictable, will always stand as Factory's principal jewels. But Morrissey's last-minute withdrawal of Smiths music from the project is symbolic of the fact that the film, and its unsurprising attendant soundtrack, are really only a portion of the Manchester story (serious dabblers should opt for a copy of 1991's Palatine: The Factory Story/1979-1990). What this collection does illustrate, on a glossier scale, is why Factory may have been the most significant of the post-punk labels.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Silva