Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Associates- The Affectionate Punch (1980) / Fourth Drawer Down (1981) / The Affectionate Punch (1982) / Sulk (1982) / Perhaps (1985) / Glamour Chase (1989) / Wild and Lonely (1990) / Radio One Sessions (1994) MP3 & FLAC

"Don't be so sure of days in advance. They might never come, praise be to chance."

Originally calling themselves Mental Torture, vocalist Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine formed what would eventually become The Associates in Dundee, Scotland in 1976, but it would take three years and a supreme act of hubris on the part of the young band to garner anything resembling commercial interest. This act came soon after the band's rechristening when Mackenzie and Rankine decided to record a cover of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging," which they self-released in June 1979 despite the fact that Bowie's original version had just hit the U.K. top ten two months earlier. What could have just as easily permanently dampened The Associates' prospects for gaining exposure quickly turned into a coup, as their quirky stripped-down re-interpretation of Bowie's ironic foray into Post-Punk caught the attention of many, including the thin white duke himself. What quickly ensued was a recording contract with Friction Records and a string of singles that sonically set the band apart from most of their Post-Punk peers by demonstrating a masterful ability to assimilate an eclectic range of influences into a sound that, in managing to be both minimalistic and ornately melodramatic, was nothing if not highly distinctive. Billy Mackenzie: "I had my influences, like early Roxy Music, Sparks, the whole Philly sound and jazz as well. But there were also reasonable amounts of imaginative and surprise elements to the music. I am a very good technical player, so I would pick the chords and then Alan would work with them and embellish them within the chord structure, maybe with another chord that really didn't fit. It was more of a feel thing, but with Alan's musical expertise. So in that respect, I think what we were doing was fresh. And it really wasn't calculated."

Billy Mackenzie & Alan Rankine
Produced by Mike Hedges, who had previously worked with The Cure on Seventeen Seconds, The Associates' debut, the aptly-named The Affectionate Punch, proved to be a brilliant anomaly among early Post-Punk LPs due to Mackenzie's four-octave Scott Walker-meets-Russell Mael croon and Rankine's deceptively spare Hansa-period Eno-esque arrangements, which, taken together, helped create the blueprint for the much more commercially-minded and far less musically accomplished output of the New Romantic movement. This is why it was all the more ironic when, two years later, after signing with a major (WEA), Mackenzie and Rankine decided to remix and partially re-record the album, and in doing so, dressed The Affectionate Punch in the kind of glossy synth-pop textures (albeit still very dark) favored by the New Romantics. It was to be this direction that Mackenzie would continue to follow after Rankine exited the band in 1982 following the release of what is commonly considered The Associates' masterpiece, Sulk, an endlessly ambitious, brilliantly excessive tempest of an album that is arguably among the greatest forgotten gems of the eighties. The two-year interval between the release of their debut and the release of Sulk had seen The Associates take a very unconventional turn, as they issued a series of seven singles for WEA's indie offshoot, Situation Two, instead of releasing an album. Singles such as "White Car in Germany," "A Girl Named Property," and "Message Oblique Speech" (collected on Fourth Drawer Down) found the band further indulging their Berlin Trilogy fetish while pushing beyond the limits of Post-Punk, especially in terms of Mackenzie's acrobatic vocals and the experimental production, and collectively set the stage for what was supposed to be The Associates' jump to pop-stardom but turned out instead to be a very strange fifteen minutes at the top of the charts. Alan Rankine: "In the studio, we were obsessive to the point of manic [....] Everyday was like 19 hours of work. We only stopped when we'd run out of ideas. We knew it was going to sound dense. To us, holding back in the first verse or first chorus, we just thought, 'fuck that.' It's like having a wank and not coming: what's the point? It only lasts four minutes, It's not a symphony, let's just do the fucker. Here's the verse: full on. Here's the intro: full on. Here's the chorus: no difference. The only way you could make it go uphill was down to Bill's acrobatic vocals."

The finished product, the tellingly-titled Sulk, is probably one of the most emotionally and artistically daring albums to ever make an appearance at or near the top of the U.K. pop charts. While on the surface, Sulk utilizes the same type of synth-pop sheen that was applied to the remake of The Affectionate Punch, this is really the only concession it makes to, what almost certainly had to be, the pressures exerted on the band as a result of signing with a major such as WEA. Whereas expectations at the label were likely in the direction of The Associates joining the ranks of New Romantic money-makers such as Duran Duran and ABC, Sulk steadfastly refuses to succumb to the siren's call of commercialism, instead taking the minimalist tones of Post-Punk and forcibly wedding them to watery synth-pop textures and in doing so, creating a gloomy yet strangely poppy concoction. An obvious highlight is "Party Fears Two," a song which manages to literalize the loungiest aspects of Aladdin Sane, while Mackenzie's vocals ratchet up the melodrama significantly. And on the exceedingly dark "Bap De La Bap," Mackenzie and Rankine draw from The Walker Brothers' Nite Flights to create a claustrophobic, nightmarish context for one of Mackenzie's more ominous vocal performances. Despite the willful unconventionality of Sulk, the album, largely on the strength of its more accessible singles, was a commercial success, which caught the attention of Sire Records' Seymour Stein, who was convinced the band could be just as successful, if not more so, in the U.S. Rankine, however, in a dispute over the band's post-Sulk direction, decided to cut ties with Mackenzie on the eve of the Sulk tour, effectively ending The Associates' brief flirtation with mainstream success. While Mackenzie went on to record several albums under The Associates moniker, these efforts, while showcasing his peerless vocal ability and resistance to commercial concerns, suffered greatly from the absence of Rankine's distinct musical touch and from record label incompetence (one album, The Glamour Chase, was never even released). While it is tempting to remember The Associates as a stubbornly original band who were never able to live up to their considerable potential, according to Mackenzie, living up to the expectations of others was never of any interest to the band: "In 1982, after Sulk, me and Alan could have easily took the U2 route, and become extremely successful [....] I could espouse that type of rock element but it was distasteful [....] Also, there's something vulgar about success."

The Affectionate Punch 
(Fiction ~ 2005/1980 ~ 25th Anniversary Edition Remastered & Expanded)

 1. The Affectionate Punch  (3:30)
 2. Amused as Always  (4:20)
 3. Logan Time  (4:11)
 4. Paper House  (4:53)
 5. Transport to Central  (5:02)
 6. A Matter of Gender  (4:30)
 7. Even Dogs in the Wild  (3:22)
 8. Would I...Bounce Back  (3:59)
 9. Deeply Concerned  (3:37)
10. A  (3:57)
-Bonus Tracks-
11. You Were Young  (4:07)
12. Janice  (2:34)
13. Boys Keep Swinging (Mono)  (3:40)
14. Mona Property Girl  (3:26)

Fourth Drawer Down
(V2 ~ 2000/1981 ~ Remastered & Expanded)

 1. White Car in Germany  (5:31)
 2. A Girl Named Property  (4:58)
 3. Kitchen Person  (4:53)
 4. Q Quarters  (4:57)
 5. Tell Me Easter's on Friday  (4:32)
 6. The Associate  (4:59)
 7. Message Oblique Speech  (5:35)
 8. An Even Whiter Car  (4:47)
-Bonus Tracks-
 9. Fearless (It Takes a Full Moon)  (3:38)
10. Point Si  (5:15)
11. Straw Towels  (5:16)
12. Kissed  (6:12)
13. Blue Soap  (3:52)

The Affectionate Punch (Remixed & Rerecorded Version)
(Fiction ~ 1982/1997)

 1. Amused as Always  (4:20)
 2. The Affectionate Punch  (4:19)
 3. A Matter of Gender  (4:28)
 4. Would I...Bounce Back  (3:57)
 5. (A)  (3:51)
 6. Logan Time  (4:15)
 7. Paper House  (4:55)
 8. Deeply Concerned  (4:04)
 9. Even Dogs in the Wild  (3:12)
10. Transport to Central  (4:34)

(V2 ~ 2000/1982 ~ Remastered)

 1. Arrogance Gave Him Up  (3:01)
 2. No  (5:49)
 3. Bap De La Bap  (4:18)
 4. Gloomy Sunday  (4:11)
 5. Nude Spoons  (4:21)
 6. It's Better This Way  (3:29)
 7. Party Fears Two  (5:12)
 8. Club Country  (4:48)
 9. Skipping  (4:02)
10. Nothinginsomethingparticular  (2:19)
11. Love Hangover  (6:13)
12. 18 Carat Love Affair  (3:40)
13. Ulcragyceptimol  (4:30)
14. And Then I Read a Book  (4:26)
15. Australia  (3:18)
16. Grecian 2000 (3:27)
17. The Room We Sat in Before  (3:28)

(Warner ~ 2002/1985 ~ Remastered)

 1. Those First Impressions  (4:43)
 2. Waiting for the Love Boat  (6:55)
 3. Perhaps  (6:32)
 4. Schampout  (6:02)
 5. Helicopter Helicopter  (4:09)
 6. Breakfast  (5:34)
 7. Thirteen Feelings  (4:39)
 8. The Stranger in Your Voice  (6:15)
 9. The Best of You  (5:37)
10. Don't Give Me That 'I Told You So' Look  (5:12)

The Glamour Chase  
(Warner ~ 2002/1989 ~ Remastered)

 1. Reach the Top  (3:44)
 2. Heart of Glass  (4:05)
 3. Terrorbeat  (3:43)
 4. Set Me Up  (4:27)
 5. Country Boy  (3:04)
 6. Because You Love  (5:27)
 7. The Rhythm Divine  (5:51)
 8. Snowball  (4:13)
 9. You'd Be the One  (4:43)
10. Empires of Your Heart  (6:23)
11. In Windows All  (7:28)
12. Heaven's Blue  (1:14)
13. Take Me to the Girl  (4:24)

MU: Lossless (FLAC)

Wild and Lonely  
(Virgin ~ 2006/1990 ~ Remastered & Expanded) 

 1. Fire to Ice  (4:37)
 2. Fever  (4:49)
 3. People We Meet  (4:25)
 4. Just Can't Say Goodbye  (5:33)
 5. Calling All Around the World  (4:20)
 6. The Glamour Chase  (4:56)
 7. Where There's Love  (4:44)
 8. Something's Got to Give  (4:44)
 9. Strasbourg Square  (4:48)
10. Ever Since That Day  (4:58)
11. Wild and Lonely  (4:20)
-Bonus Tracks-
12. 1, 2, 3  (2:54)
13. Green Tambourine  (3:23)
14. Groovin' with Mr. Bloe  (3:04)
15. I'm Gonna Run Away from You  (4:18)
16. Fever in the Shadows  (7:31)

Radio 1 Sessions 
(Nighttracks ~ 1994)

 1. Me, Myself and the Tragic Story (John Peel Session- April 28, 1981)  (3:23)
 2. It's Better This Way (John Peel Session- April 28, 1981)  (3:28)
 3. A Severe Bout of Career Insecurity (John Peel Session- March 6, 1982)  (4:04)
 4. Love Hangover (John Peel Session- March 6, 1982)  (4:32)
 5. Waiting for the Love Boat (John Peel Session- March 6, 1982)  (5:05)
 6. Theme from Perhaps (David "Kid" Jensen Session- Aug. 29, 1983)  (5:24)
 7. Don't Give Me That 'I Told You So' Look (David "Kid" Jensen Session- Aug. 29, 1983) 
 8. God Bless the Child (John Peel Session- Aug. 3, 1983)  (3:18)
 9. Breakfast (David "Kid" Jensen Session- Aug. 29, 1983)  (4:22)
10. This Flame (John Peel Session- Aug. 3, 1983)  (5:40)
11. Kites (Richard Skinner Session- July 15, 1984)  (3:57)
12. A Matter of Gender (Richard Skinner Session- July 15, 1984)  (4:30)
13. The Affectionate Punch (Richard Skinner Session- July 15, 1984)  (5:04)
14. Obsession Magnificent (Janice Long Session- Aug. 8, 1985)  (4:15)
15. Give (Janice Long Session- Aug. 8, 1985)  (5:01)
16. The Girl That Took Me (Janice Long Session- Aug. 8, 1985)  (4:08)

 The Associates- "Party Fears Two" (1982) "Live" on Top of the Pops

Visit Whippet at the Wheel for Associates Rarities


  1. Megaa Posst...Combobreaker! A winner is you. :O)

  2. Okay I will try one of these but really the voice is killing me! lol

  3. scurfie, if you don't like his voice, it's probably a lost cause. Try the first one

  4. I had downloaded "Wild and Lonely" last night, before your response, and I take it all back. It's excellent. I was wrong...again. : )

  5. OMG! what a ridiculously flamboyant and amazing post, took me ages to get with the Associates back in the day but once you let your shield down and it clicks there is nothing else like them. I'd be inclined to say Billy Mac has one of the top 5 greatest voices in the history of popular music. Those vocal histrionics he does in 'Part Fears Two' are way out of the reach of nearly every male vocalists ever.

    Stellar post.

  6. scurfie, I think the first version of "Affectionate Punch," "Fourth Drawer Down," and "Sulk" will also be of interest to you. The Associates are definitely an acquired taste, but then, so is fine wine

  7. the starry, great to hear from you! I had the same experience when I first heard this band but once I got into them, well, you know the rest. Mackenzie's voice was peerless

  8. You must be quite an Associates fan. Such an extensive selection and very nice accompanying text. Thanks, V. 'Club Country" was the first Associates 12" that I bought. Looking back, it reminds me of Dead or Alive(vocally speaking, that is) and, as I can attest, refrigeration does keep you young. ;)

  9. Thanks for The Associates promotion effort, posted most years ago, mainly 320 vinyl rips and it's great to see them getting remastered and made available here. That said, i felt the Sulk remaster i found elsewhere sounded really awful, maybe I will try yours, its always possible some sexually frustrated git felt the need to express his emotions by raping good music, its not that hard come to think of it.
    Anyway you are missing a jewel In Billy McKenzie's crown, Outernational be on the look out for that one.

  10. bv, I just feel The Associates are one of the most unique bands of the Post-Punk era, but are, nevertheless, vastly under-appreciated

  11. Anon., great to hear from you and I really appreciate your blog and your efforts. Let me know if this version of "Sulk" is any better

  12. Wonderful post! I was sure I had the Affectionate Punch album and some singles, but I can't find them now. I remember I sort of liked them, but couldn't really get into it, so I must have sold them. Stupid. I've downloaded it and I'm listening to it now. It's great! Unique, and considering when it came out... phew! Going to try the other ones as well. I guess I was too young back then...

  13. is there any chance of a re-up of the FLAC files of the first four? None of them have ever been released in my country on any format whatsoever, and I simply love those albums! I'd love to replace my em pee threes with lossless files . . . Many thanks in advance!


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