On their tour promoting the recent release of their thirteenth studio album, ‘It All Comes Down to This’, the band performed it in its entirety in track order as well as a set of their classic staples. The lineup was more stripped down with their three founding members Jez Kerr (vocals, keyboard), Martin Moscrop (guitar, trumpet, drums, percussion) and Donald Johnson (backing vocals, drums, bass, percussion), with the addition of their newer member Viv (bass, backing vocals, percussion), which gave a rare minimalistic vibe contrasted to the earlier days of the band.


However, the album is anything but minimalistic, being a full spectrum of sound. They began on its opening title track and main single, ‘All Comes Down to This’, with Moscrop’s trickling guitar slide effects alongside backing tracks being utilised to attain the complete sound effects on the recorded version. Second single, the trippy ‘Keep it Real’ followed, but ‘We All Need’, with the entwinement of Viv’s creeping bass and Moscrop’s Herbie Hancock guitar made this the best performed of the album’s three opening tracks; Moscrop playing trumpet later in the track albeit slipping slightly.

The following technology themed songs ‘Surfer Ticket’ and ‘Bitten by a Lizard’ took the set down a darker direction as on the album; the former saw Moscrop’s tingly feedback and Johnson backing up Kerr’s vocals, but could have done with more hard hitting dub effects to reflect the cut-up technology used on the record. The latter saw a melody of keyboard, plucky guitar and electronic-style cymbal tapping and feedback drone effects turning into jangle rock with a drumming interlude that was reminiscent of ‘Do the Du’; it was done perfectly to recreate the song’s chilling atmospherics.

The more funky element of the album was seen in ‘Out From Under’; its ‘Shack Up’ sound saw a combination of deep bass groove and jagged guitar, also with Viv’s backing vocals which were welcome in the absence of the band’s backing singer Ellen Beth Abdi – who was on solo support for the band on this tour – and lifted the song off the recorded version. Johnson then narrated his biographical tale in the lumpy swing of ‘Estate Kings’, which had multi-instrumentalist Moscrop switching between cool jazz trumpet and wah wah pedal effects. Final album track, ‘Dorothy Says’, based on the poem ‘Resumé’ by American writer Dorothy Parker, ended their new album performance but needed more guitar twang.

ACR started the next part of their set on older material with the build of ‘Winter Hill’ from their second 1981 studio album, ‘To Each…’, and a rarity in the way of ‘Touch’ from 1982’s ‘I’d Like to See You Again. However, they still stayed current with newer tracks such as their 2019 cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Houses in Motion’, with a guitar pedal effect intro but lacking punch, two tracks from 2000’s ‘ACR Loco’ and ‘Samo’ from their last studio release, ‘1982’. The best performed song from their back catalogue was ‘Good Together’ from ‘acr:mcr’, which was introduced with a BBC radio sample and had cowbell and stiff drumming, which really transported back to the classic days of the band. They finished their set on ‘Shack Up’ and ‘Knife Slits Water’, the latter with Johnson reeling the funk on slap bass.

02/05/24: A Certain Ratio @ Fabric, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.