The Popstream: Banbarra/A Certain Ratio, "Shack Up"


Banbarra's "Shack Up" has a pretty odd legacy: the first hit you get by Googling the name of the band is their page on, which tells you the names of the songwriters in the group (Joseph Anthony Carter and Moe Daniels), every release their solitary song has appeared on, and literally nothing else. Their entry is similarly blank, though it does add the interesting fact that "Shack Up" hit #4 on the Club Play Singles chart. Heading to that b-boy standby reveals the fact that its appearance on one of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats compilations back in the '80s resulted in a good number of hip hop tracks sampling it, maybe the most famous being Public Enemy's "Yo! Bum Rush the Show". And Googling the indivudial names of Banbarra's two credited members gives some interesting results: Joseph Anthony Carter -- assuming it's the same man -- was a pillar of the Baltimore community who passed away sometime in or before 2003 and was the subject of a resolution to honor his passing in the Georgia Senate, while Moe Daniels runs his own record label, also out of Baltimore, and currently performs as a jazz pianist. So what's this obscure one-off single sound like?

Pretty damn funky. This clip should give you a good idea, and it's a bit ingenious, too: the person who uploaded this to YouTube, rather than stick a static image of the 7" label on there for people to stare at for three minutes, decided to sync it to vintage footage from Soul Train, a solution I propose for all audio-only musical YouTube uploads from here on out. Everything in this song -- the chicken-scratch guitar, the pop-lock-accommodating beat, the horns, the gravelly friends-with-benefits-endorsing lead vocal -- makes this song's relative obscurity completely inexplicable. (And that's just Part 1; Part 2 features a completely off-the-chain guitar solo.) Then again, it could've been more obscure if it weren't for a group of post-punk Mancunians who shared a label with Joy Division and paved the way for all that jittery disco-punk that hemorrhaged out of NYC in the early '00s.

A Certain Ratio's version of "Shack Up" was initially released on Factory's Belgian imprint Factory Benelux and, despite its import-only status, found its way into heavy rotation in New York clubs like the Roxy. It's a pretty fascinating contrast: the horns are a bit out of tune, the guitar is a bit more sandpapery, and lead singer Jeremy Kerr is, well, a lot less boisterous-sounding than whoever helmed vocals on Banbarra's version. Good thing that groove's still there.

Buy A Certain Ratio's Early on