Associates “Sulk” Ultrabox Aims For Excess…As Ever [part 4]

John Murphy of Associates

[…continued from last post]

Associates: Sulk [2022 remaster] – UK – 3x CD [2022]


  1. Ulcragyceptimol (Demo)
  2. I Never Will (Demo)
  3. Club Country (Demo)
  4. Me, Myself and the Tragic Story (John Leckie Recording)
  5. Australia (John Leckie Recording)
  6. Skipping (Monitor Mix Instrumental)
  7. It’s Better This Way (Monitor Mix)
  8. And Then I Read a Book (Alternative Version)
  9. Ulcragyceptimol
  10. It’s Better This Way (Alt Version)
  11. The Associate
  12. A Girl Named Property
  13. Grecian 2000
  14. Party Fears Two (7″)
  15. Club Country (7″)
  16. 18 Carat Love Affair
  17. Love Hangover (Extended Version)
BMG | UK | CD2 | 2022 | ASCBOOK1

The first bonus disc immediately offered up an unheard version of the B-side “Ulcragyceptimol.” This one was poised to keep a very cool head with the tension largely ironed out from the song. The steady drumbeats could have been a loop. Only Rankine’s flanged guitar gave us any energy as Billy MacKenzie’s vocal performance was filled with inertia. The song seemed to meander onward to little effect before a fade on some feedback

The demo of “I Never Will” showed how much that “Party Fears Two” had been nailed down by the time of demos for “Sulk.” The magnificent riff now sported a lyric that would be 70% of the finished product, thought the title had not yet been formulated. So the chorus was “please don’t make me do what the atheists do…don’t make me.” It hardly took flight as would the “awake me!” lyric would certainly do. But the piano treatment was already sign, sealed and delivered and musically, the track was right what we would expect of a “Party Fears Two” demo. As did the “Club Country” demo which was fully formed, save for the absence of the familiar keyboards. Even the dropout to just Billy’s voice in the coda was in place here.

It was fascinating hearing John Leckie recordings of “Me, Myself, + The Tragic Story” and the rarity “Australia.” I consider Leckie to be a Post-Punk producer nonpareil and I’ll imagine that the band presented Mike Hedges, who’d done honors of “The Affectionate Punch” and “Fourth Drawer Down” only to have WEA pushback for a more commercial choice. So Leckie got a chance to record s few with the band and though I love Leckie’s work, here it’s just a little too clean and neat compared to the bleeding and sprawl that made the Mike Hedges work with this band more mysterious and compelling. Of the two, “Australia” came out a little more convincing. The guitar as well as MacKenzie’s vocal production was excellent, but these two demos reveal an interesting glimpse into a world that was never meant to be.

As far as I’m concerned, the big prizes of disc two were the monitor mixes we’d not heard before. The instrumental monitor mix for “Skipping” dazzled for the simple reason that MacKenzie’s vocal performance there was so primary that it left the considerable instrumental chops that the band delivered all but ignored. Alan Rankine had mentioned in the liner notes here that his biggest challenge with the record was “creating the biggest sounds that he could just to back up texturally what Bill was trying to do vocally.”

The monitor mix of “Skipping” allowed us to experience the song instrumentally as the live band heard it in the studio. One of the most pleasurable insights to listening to this box was the ability to focus on the tremendous drumming that John Murphy brought to the table. Bassist Michael Dempsey cited his “wild, rolling energy” and the fact that he was trained by his Jazz drummer father from the age of four in the liner notes as being paramount to his contributions. And here we can certainly focus on the propulsive energy that he and Rankine traded off on this centerpiece of the album. Rankine’s stinging leads reduced every note and chord to vibrant singularities on his leads while his rhythm playing helped to capitalize on the reckless, forward momentum that the drums also brought to the song.

Next… How Much Better Is It?

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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