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Singles

The Associates

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Album Review

Who could've known from Associates' first single — a skeletal, spirited, practically all-rhythm corkscrewing of Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging," released only a few weeks after the original — that they'd proceed to record some of the most bizarre, most claustrophobic, most energizing, most inexplicable singles of the '80s? From 1980 through 1982, they were as pop as ABC and as not-pop as the Pop Group, occasionally at the same time. Soaring melodies were bounced off frayed-nerve dissonance, topped by lyrics that could wrench the soul and then scramble the brain. Singles, the best Associates compilation to date, acts as an improved, expanded, more in-depth version of 1990's Popera, widening the scope to cover some of Billy Mackenzie's solo-in-name material while leaving enough room for one-off diversions, such as Mackenzie Sings Orbidoig's deliriously breathless cover of Schwartz Kapell's "Ice Cream Factory." Popera's lack of chronological sense — i.e., "Let's just tuck the weird early stuff at the end and begin with the big chart hit, and maybe no one will notice" — is rectified here, so you wind your way through the maverick Situation 2 singles, the concurrently dense and glossy Sulk era, the too easily slagged, relatively contemporary post-Rankine years, and tracks from Mackenzie's Outernational sessions. Collectors will want to take note, not only for the unreleased songs dating from Outernational, but also for the inclusions of 39 Lyon Street's "Kites," the original mix of "The Affectionate Punch," and the single edits of the A-sides that made up half of Fourth Drawer Down (perversely, they often sound less like singles than the album versions). The remastered sound, courtesy of Associates associate Michael Dempsey, is excellent, and the liner notes are thorough, full of anecdotes. Bizarrely, none of the photos include Alan Rankine. Though this set was necessary, you'll still need The Affectionate Punch, Fourth Drawer Down, and Sulk, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1979

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Formed in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1979, the Associates comprised vocalist Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine. Built on an eclectic mix of influences and interests ranging from art rock to glam and disco, the group debuted with a manic cover of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging," which earned them a contract with Fiction Records. Their 1980 debut LP, The Affectionate Punch, was a critically acclaimed work which expanded...
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Singles, The Associates
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