Associates “Sulk” Ultrabox Aims For Excess…As Ever [part 6]

mike hedges + alan rankine
producer Mike Hedges [L] mugs with Alan Rankine [R]

[…continued from last post]

Next in the program was the phalanx of hit singles…boomboomboom! Having first heard “Party Fears Two” in 7″ form on “Popera” in 1990 meant that the succinct single mix made that heavy first impression. Listening to any of the [inaccurate, as it turned out] alternative “album mixes” on various and sundry discs always gave me the impression that I was hearing a 12″ remix in stead of the actual song. Now I’ve digitized the actual LP mix from a vintage 1982 pressing and it’s the longest mix yet! Props must go to the 7″ edit as being the ideal form of the song. A startling Pop hit that will always strike the ear at a fascinatingly oblique angle and be all the better for it.

Martha Ladly + Billy MacKenzie in summer beach frolic © 1982 Sheila Rock

The “Club Country” 7″ edit also played very tightly, but as a meta dance track fit into its 12″ extended remix and longer LP mix without complaint. Meanwhile, the lollypop sweet confection of “18 Carat Love Affair” was the now vocal version of “Nothinginsomethingparticular” which gained intriguing dissonance via its lyric of cheeky infidelity. Crooned just to that side of camp while backing vocalist Martha Ladly added girlish counterpoints which were eventually joined by Billy’s swoop into full flight Male Diva mode by the end of the song.

Then came the last song on disc 2. The one that by all rights should have been a single that would have vaulted into the Top 10, at least in the UK. Their label certainly felt that way, but in not the first of their headstrong acts, Associates put it on the B-side of “18 Carat Love Affair.” Maybe its status as a cover version cemented its fate with the band, but their version of “Love Hangover” was nothing less than a dazzler! Surely one of the all time great Post-Punk cover versions.

The full 12″ version was included in this boxed set, and this was the way it was meant to be experienced. The extended intro buildup introduced Ms. Ladly’s girly BVs early on and gave plenty of room for Billy’s smoldering “mmm…mmm…mmms” to set the torrid mood. His powerful belting in the first verse raged out of his solar plexus only for his multi octave leap on the first “oh… I…I…I…IIIIII…don’t need no cure” to take us from baritone to falsetto in the blink of an eye. This was the voice that assured us that there were no barriers to it what so ever.

The band were content to stay in pocket and let Alan Rankine’s jangly rhythm guitar do the instrumental talking here. Having room to vamp for a few bars before the middle eight where MacKenzie reasserted his dominance with verve. Gilding the lily by descending from falsetto between the first and second syllables of the second round of “MOther,” “DOCtor,” and “PREACHer” because he could.

Martha Ladly rejoined the track only for Billy to show her how female backing vocals were done; overpowering her with his falsetto. She was more effective with her sultry whispers of sweet nothings adding to the mesmeric swirl of desire that the song climaxed in before the instruments suddenly dropped out giving the last words to Martha and Billy’s harmonized but spent sighs of satiation.

BMG | UK | CD3 | 2022 | ASCBOOK1

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

Disc 3: PEEL SESSIONS, LIVE @ GIGANT

  1. Me Myself And The Tragic Story (Peel Session 28/04/81)
  2. Nude Spoons (Peel Session 28/04/81)
  3. A Matter Of Gender (Peel Session 28/04/81)
  4. It’s Better This Way (Peel Session 28/04/81)
  5. Ulcragyceptimol (Peel Session 28/04/81)
  6. Waiting For The Love Boat (Peel Session 06/03/82)
  7. Australia (Peel Session 06/03/82)
  8. Love Hangover (Peel Session 06/03/82)
  9. A Severe Case of Career Insecurity (Peel Session 06/03/82)
  10. Arrogance Gave Him Up (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  11. A Matter Of Gender (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  12. Nude Spoons (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  13. Paper House (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  14. No (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  15. And Then I Read a Book (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  16. Gloomy Sunday (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  17. It’s Better This Way (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)
  18. Skipping (Live at Gigant, Apeldoorn 10/01/81)

The last disc in the box was down to the Peel Session that bookended the recording and release of “Sulk” with three album cuts and two B-sides given the often transformative arrangements that Associates always had time for when called on by Auntie Beeb. The first session dates from April 1981, a full half year prior to the “Fourth Drawer Down” compilation,” much less the “Sulk” album which followed seven months after that. One of the pleasures of this box is that it attempts to tie all of the band’s sprawling productivity into a neat bundle.

The early recording of “Arrogance Gave Him Up” was called “My, Myself And The Tragic Story” and I have to admit that the early take is the winner! The more reckless and speedy take still had great drumming either way, but Rankine’s ringing guitar lines were not sharing the limelight with his keyboard overdubs this time. The drum production is a hundredfold better with none of the deleterious effects that made the beats sound like mushy Simmons pads like the LP version. This one was rousing and thrilling with the guitar chaos that Rankine allowed into the final product under Dale Griffin’s taut production.

“Nude Spoons” was overtly less hysterical than the LP version would be but eventually, Billy was doubling his vocals for a different kind of psychosis leeching into the resulting music. When he started singing in split octaves, the song just became even more extreme. With the tight peals of Rankine’s guitar taking the curves of the song like a Maserati.

I simply loved the breakneck rendition of the dusty but in no way moribund “A Matter Of Gender.” This was another clear win for the Peel Sessions. The mannered posture of the earlier 1980 version nearly obliterated by the guitar Dub attack of this version. Rankine’s guitar was heavily delayed here and he was using the rhythmic tension to expertly goose the level of frenzy in the song. I can only imagine that if I were a fan listening to these when originally broadcast that I would have been spontaneously combusting back then!

“It’s Better This Way” is hard to pick a favorite recording of. Each one brings something to the plate and one of the pleasures of this one was the great bass playing of Mike Dempsey getting a boost in the mix. The B-side “Ulcragyceptimol” got its third airing here in the package with Rankine’s guitar humming like a mosquito to frenetic effect. Giving an energetic platform for Billy’s vocal to leap from fearlessly.

Next… “Here’s A Song From Our Album Four Years From Now”

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Buried Treasures, Core Collection, Record Review, Scots Rock and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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