Happy Mondays' debut album was in retrospect a false start, but not as much of one as has been claimed. Production by John Cale was an odd choice -- certainly fewer bands were out there who had less of an open connection to the Welsh legend's musical approach -- but the end results capture the cluttering mess of the band's approach well enough. The wild card is the presence of original member Paul Davis on keyboards, who adds some subtle touches throughout that make the band sound a touch more relaxed than they really were, as on "Oasis." (Bez wasn't around at this point -- but then again, was he ever around even when he was in the band?) Shaun Ryder certainly is well on his own way, though, his attitude-laden delivery already finding the perfect balance between random incomprehensibility, sharp images, and inspired nonsense. The album's standout track and more or less title cut "24 Hour Party People" -- ironically only included after the fact when the song "Desmond" had to be pulled for its blatant Beatles borrowing -- is a blast, a partying call to arms that is all about fun and chaos at once. If the remainder of the album can mostly be called a fusion of disco-tinged funk and Ryder's vocal insanity, though, it's still a great fusion, not quite the heights of the near future, but by no means a washout. The combination of slick and rough on songs like the well-groovy "Tart Tart" is offset by the quiet prettiness of the band at points. "Olive Oil" sounds a bit like a queasy Smiths song and both "Cob 20" and "Kuff Dam" almost sound a bit like the Cure. CD copies of the album include a variant of "Little Matchstick Owen" called "Little Matchstick Owen's Rap," which originally appeared as the B-side to "Tart Tart."
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett