Alan Rankine: The World Begins To Look Her Age – JPN – CD 
- Elephant’s Walk In Morning Glory
- Mission For The Don
- Your Very Last Day
- The Best In Me
- The World Begins To Look Her Age
- Last Bullet
- The Sandman
- Love In Adversity
The initial era of Scotland’s brilliant Post-Punk band The Associates has taken on the aura of a lost golden age, with Alan Rankine providing creative soundscapes for vocalist Billy Mackenzie to emote over to ravishing effect. What came afterward though, has gotten a critical pasting that usually showed MacKenzie getting his more widespread body of post-Associates solo work getting summarily dismissed with a curt “not as good as the records he made with Alan Rankine.” Today we’ll look at the other side of that equation in an album I actually have three different pressings of: original BENELUX LP, sealed Spanish LP, and the Japanese CD we can actually listen to without undue work.
The album started off on an instant sour note. “Elephant’s Walk In Morning Glory” began as wrong-footed as possible, given this man’s musical history, with a plaintive dobro which was eventually joined by the deadly banjo. Now, in the right hands, this combo can be magical. But not this time. When the synth strings and full on mid-80s digital keys joined the fray, the entire misbegotten exercise quickly descended to the level of some hellish library music audition with an eye towards scoring some “inspirational” Ron Howard film. It was ghastly beyond belief and had better reach prime Associates levels of accomplishment to get the saccharin taste washed out of my mouth!
But that’s not what happened. Instead, “Mission For The Don” proved that Alan Rankine could run with the 1986 “New Jack Swing” trend as much as any other early adopters could. But this was faceless; apart from the incongruous library music intro that was crudely bolted on to the DOA number. Or the character voice intoning “don’t come back ’til The Don is dead!” Far better was the slightly left-field “Your Very Last Day,” which sounded as if it could have been a contender on the Associates “Perhaps” album. The first one that MacKenzie made without his services. At least musically. Rankine, would be no match for MacKenzie at the mic, but his awkward phrasing tended to make him sound as if he was singing in English as a second language. His voice had that vague BENELUX accent to it, even though he’s a Scot! Perchance did Les Disques Du Crépuscule require it?
As spotty as this album had been, it reached a nadir with the sappy ballad “The Best In Me” which, I kid you not, could have passed muster on a late 70s Chris Rea album! Fortunately, side two found the album once more rising to provoke something more than dismay. The long title track sounded as if it were attempting to tap into the inspiration of “Welcome To The Pleasuredome.” The 8:49 track wasn’t quite as long, and truthfully, it more strongly resembled Wang Chung’s [excellent] “The World In Which You Live,” but The Chung have copped to being inspired by the FGTH opus, so I’ll assume the same thing was happening here with Rankine and at the same time. Both this song and the Wang Chung opus [also from 1986] were plowing similar fields.
“The World Begins To Show Her Age” got up a very similar head of steam with Rankine trading vocals with an uncredited female singer over the long and complex arrangement that unfolded for nearly nine minutes. The scorching rhythmic guitar and leads from the 4:00 to 6:30-ish point served to remind us that, yes, this gent did play guitar on “4th Drawer Down” and “The Affectionate Punch!”
“Last Bullet” was the second single in the BENELUX nations, but the fairly limp MOR tune was hobbled further by the somewhat obscure metaphor of the lyric. The debut Rankine single was “The Sandman” and it fared only slightly better with the sort of song that might have been a deep cut on Thompson Twins “Into The Gap” album. In fact. listening to this track, my mind can swap in Tom Bailey’s delivery of the song without much effort at all. Needless, to say, that’s no reason to buy a record in my book, though I have the 12″ single of this one in the Record Cell as part of my Associates program.
At the end of the day there simply wasn’t much there there on Alan Rankine’s first solo attempt. While anyone’s vocal efforts would be perfunctory adjacent to Billy MacKenzie’s vibrant show of plumage, Rankine was perhaps more out of his element vocally than he might have admitted to. But it was his uninspiring music and songs that were the coup de grace here. From the credits he seems to be the only musician here but all of the effort is for naught. There’s little inspiration, apart from on “Your Very Last Day” and the title track.
And even those relative high points were gorges next to the heights scaled by Rankine while in The Associates. It might not be fair to make such comparisons, but that’s where we find ourselves after a spin of this unadventurous disc that at best begins to approach spitting distance of the first Associates album sans Rankine, but at worst traffics in substandard MOR and pop-by-the-numbers best forgotten. I may have a few too many copies of this album in the Associates collection!
– 30 –
I bought the album on release and the accompanying 12”es. On the first Sandman 12” is a
sought-after track in darkwave-circles:
it even ended up on a ”Belgian New Beat” compilation!
Just like you a was underwhelmed with the album but for completists sake bought (almost)
everything with his name on it….
Fred – I have not yet spun the 12″ single, so by the look of things, at least “Rumours Of War” has some potential value. All the tracks I have from that compilation [5-7] are pretty good, even if I’d have a hard time classifying Bill Nelson’s “If Your Dream Of Perfect Beauty Comes True” as Belgian New Beat!
Yes, the “Rumours of War” track seems pretty good to me, and I can see how it might do well with the dark wave crowd. It’s a pity he seems a little lost in his solo efforts, but perhaps he can find another partner to spark off with … say, isn’t Cab Volt down to one guy these days?
chasinvictoria – Yow! I’d better play that record! But lost in his solo efforts…an apt way to put it. At least he didn’t press the issue for too long before getting out of the game. Which is a shame since with the right collaborator he’s dynamite!
I have the 12″ single of “The World…” and I never play the A side,but the B side contains the most amazing track “Can you believe everything I see Parts 1 & 2” which is absolutely stunning.It contains superb dialogue samples and great sound design.It bears no relation to the long track with the same name which appeared on “From Brussels with Love” CD.
Gavin – I also have that 12″ and have yet to spin it as I only got it three years ago! I loved the long track on the “Brussels With Live” CD and didn’t know that it wasn’t one and the same, so thanks! And the 1987 Virgin issue of “The Sandman” 12″ has “Can You Believe Everything I See part 3” so there’s that to yet come. i could probably make a good CD-R of Rankine cuts from here and there. The instrumentals on the album were poor, but those elsewhere seem to be much better. I think Alan needed Billy to curate the art. He’s talented, but perhaps lacks taste, as many songs on this album showed.
I only had this as Crepescule double pack with “The Big Picture Sucks” and must admit I listened only once to this CD, just did nothing to me. But his 1989 Mini (?) Album is way more interesting.
slur – I still don’t have “The Big Picture Sucks.” More library music, or not? Which 1989 mini album? Discogs is missing that one.
Actually I meant this one – it’s just 6 tracks and more soundtrack-ish with opulent production. It’s a good one but I’d prefer to have it as standalone release. In case you like the early Barry Adamson albums it might be of interest with you – just take the dark out and substitute with glam ; )
slur – That’s good to know. Nice choice of comparing to early Barry Adamson. There’s a thread of Rankine cuts I’ve heard that certainly inhabit that cinematic world common to Adamson. A pity about the two he put on this album!
I am particularly fond of the music Alan Rankine made with Paul Haig, who was with Josef K. Worth a listen if you can get hold of The Warp of Pure Fun
Bill Bennett – “The Warp Of Pure Fun” has been on my want list for ages, but I do have the “Big Blue World” 12″ and I consider it a real winner. I will maintain my theory that as long as we give Alan Rankine a partner [who will do the singing] then he’s your man and you’ll go far! But buying Paul Haig is its own reward. Come for the Paul Haig; stay for the Alan Rankine!
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