The Associates’ Sulk: they burned bright and disappeared all too quickly

21st May 2016

Title: Sulk

Label: BMG

They burned brightly and then disappeared all too quickly but this Scottish outfit, formed in Edinburgh in 1979 by Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine, successfully combined art rock and glam into their 1980 debut, The Affectionate Punch.

This 1982 release was their second LP outing and it saw the band right at the top of their game with Mackenzie’s incredible vocal delivery, that almost Broadway-esque falsetto that reminded some of the band Sparks but added a New Romantic edge with a darker, slightly nightmarish cabaret fantasy.

That was only partly the magic on this LP, the rest came form Rankine and his penchant for a suite of hooks that allowed the arrangement to really grab you and reel you in.

Also, don’t forget the excellent bass performance from Michael Dempsey, some of you might remember him as the ex-member of The Cure.

This edition has been remastered from the original ¼” master tapes and the album has never sounded better. There is a certain dryness to the master as a whole which gives the impression of being closed in but I think this is more to do with a time and a place and the initial demands from the mastering. If the album was recorded now it would be more sparkling and dynamic. As it is, though, the remastering offers a beautifully quiet cut that allows all of the available detail to burst through. The scarily cycling lead vocals of Country Club are cutting and effective while the subtle secondary tambourine percussion on Nothing In Something Particular is easily tracked because the soundstage is spread wide across the speakers.

An excellent edition that is highly recommended to fans.