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(Billy MacKenzie, Alan Rankine & Co)
"Billy Mackenzie is
vocally reminiscent of Bowie: but Bowie has never sung with so much delightful
range and subtlety, never really had to. Mackenzie's soul singing is in the
pained, proud tradition of Holiday and Garland. He'd be comfortable and do a
great job singing 'Windmills Of My Mind' (he almost does on 'Even Dogs In
The Wild'). An artist at communication, he takes intense care over
enunciation - the shape of words and the space between them. His vocals are
either a folly or something very special: I reckon a little of the former, a
lot of the latter. The Associates sound is somewhere between evocative
Cure and dramatic Magazine: a passionate cabaret
soul music, a fulfillment of the European white dance music Bowie was flirting
with back then. It is a fabulist (as opposed to surrealist) entertainment
vitiated by a cool sense of art. Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine write the
music; Mackenzie the words. Rankine appears to play all instruments with
remarkable skill except drums (Nigel Glockler).
-- Paul Morley, NME, 8/80
Aside from an aborted Associates reunion with Alan Rankine in the mid-90s, MacKenzie remained a solo artist, collaborating in the 90s with Peach, Barry Adamson, Paul Haig and Apollo Four Forty amongst others. At the end of 1996, after four years without a deal, he signed with Nude Records. Tragically his first release for the label was a post-humous one. The death of his mother in 1996 was likely the trigger of an emotional breakdown that led him deeper and deeper into a depressed state. Billy MacKenzie died aged 39, on 22nd January 1997 from an overdose of prescribed and over-the-counter pills.
¼ 1980: The Affectionate Punch
Tracklisting: 01.The Affectionate Punch 02. Amused As Always 03.Logan Time 04. Paper House 05.Transport to Central 06.A Matter Of Gender 07.Even Dogs In the Wild 08.Would I.......Bounce Back? 09.Deeply Concerned 10.'A'
"'The Affectionate Punch' is too good, too spectacular to be merely the work of yet another group set to make a career out of one of Bowie's stops. The Associates have further defined 'Station's' eerie combination of vitality and disorientation, drawn from is melancholia, and share its European feel. It's a debut almost as sensational as 'Real Life' - The Associates have things in common with Magazine worth talking about. (...) The ten songs are consistently inventive, ironic, irreverent, written with a light sometimes self-mocking restraint, arranged from a post-Eno, point of view. The opening two songs are immediately impressive: the stylish cynical title track, typically laced with incidental delights; the almost atomised, light-headed 'Amused As Always' - Mackenzie's singing here at is most absorbed and absorbing. (...) 'A Matter Of Gender' is a lush example of The Associates' private desperation and public drama. 'Even Dogs In The Wild' is decadent cabaret, feeling for warmth; a typically clipped swing, finger clickings, a lone whistler in the dark. (...) At their worst the Associates are engagingly supra-whimsical, at their best they are potently sophisticated and sensitive. Their well-ordered flair and melodrama seems right for the times: decay music. "
-- Paul Morley, NME, 8/80
¼ 1981: Fourth Drawer Down
"'Fourth Drawer Down' is a compilation of singles the group produced in their pre-'Sulk' days. All those who enjoyed the maddening synth aspect on the following album will probably seek most enjoyment from the offerings here. Sadly, the tunes so promiment on 'Sulk' are largely absent on this collection; harsh synths and sinister unapproachable rhythms are very much the order of the day. The few bright moments occur when a deviation from the abrasive formula is utilised such as 'The Associate' and 'Kissed', both of them are instrumental efforts whereas 'Tell Me Easter's On A Friday' possesses a more mainstream feel. Oddly, Mackenzie's vocal mannerisms work best on 'Blue Soap' as he croons his way through the track whilst in the bath and its preferable to him using a hoover as a microphone on 'Kitchen Person'. A brave excursion into sonic experimentation this may well be, but sometimes it's best to be clever rather than smart-arsed. "
"The Associates' album, 'Sulk', was their most fully realised. They were central to the New Pop revolution spiking the waters of the early 1980s charts, a stylish revolt against the joyless monotones of much post-punk music. On the cover of Sulk, singer Billy Mackenzie and musical half Alan Rankine are seen reclining in some hothouse, bathed in artificial blue and green light. Rankine's music was now equally unnatural--layer upon layer of synthetic uniqueness, its relationships to punk, funk and glam-rock no longer visible, while Mackenzie's vocals are grandiloquent without lapsing into Marc Almond-style camp cabaret. Yet there was something darkly peculiar about the Associates. Party Fears Two and Club Country were mutations of Haircut 100, extravagant yet haunted by doubt. 'Alive and kicking at the country club/we're always sickening at the country club'. Whatever drove the Associates, whatever was eating them remained a mystery, exacerbated by Mackenzie's suicide in 1997."
-- David Stubbs, amazon.co.uk
Tracklisting: 01.Breakfast 02.Thirteen feelings 03. The Stranger in your voice 04.The Best of you 05. Dont give me that 06.I told you so look 07. Those First Impressions 08. Waiting for the loveboat 09. Perhaps 10. Schampout 11. Helicopter Helicopter
"Guitarist Rankine had lost patience with MacKenzie's erratic behaviour and lack of commitment and was sick of carrying a disproportionate share of the burden. MacKenzie, however, put the split down to the pressures of "rock'n'roll" and claimed that he had been In the driving seat anyway. Whatever the reasons, the split may not be permanent and in the meantime, after a three-year gap, MacKenzie has kept the name alive with the aptly-titled Perhaps. (...) Unfortunately, while MacKenzie still has full control of his faculties (voice, lyrics and to a lesser extent music), new guitarist Steve Reid and keyboardman L. Howard Hughes fail to emulate Rankine's brilliance as an arranger and musician. These two are skilled craftsmen all right, but Rankine was a musical Picasso by comparison. All is not lost though. Any Associates record is better than none and it's still a pleasure to hear MacKenzie's voice swoop and trill its way through a good 55 minutes' worth of material. (...) The guitar, synth and drum machine combination, is clinically effective but too often lapses into Devo territory and technical wizardry. The songs themselves are, with a few exceptions good enough to bring to mind the last Associates LP 'Sulk,' but nothing really matches the originality of that masterpiece. Breakfast is the pic of the album; its piano, strings and voice combination is utterly delicious. The rest of side two is consistently good as well. Side one begins a little tamely but comes right in style with Waiting for the Loveboat. "
-- Ian Henderson, The Southland Times, 85
1990: Wild and Lonely
Tracklisting: 01.Fire to Ice 02.Fever 03.People we meet 04.Just cant say goodbye 05.Calling all around the world 06.Where theres love 07.Something's got to give 08.Strasbourg Square 09.Ever since that day 10.Wild and Lonely
"Four years and another rejected LP ('The Glamour Chase') later, Mackenzie re-emerged with a non-LP EP and, the following year, a garish eurodisco album, 'Wild and Lonely'. While the songs reprise the moods and melodies (not to mention the keyboardist) of 'Perhaps', producer Julian Mendelsohn straps on a similarly dated saccharine straitjacket. (Have these guys been living on Mars?) Still, Mackenzie's voice occasionally shines through the marzipan, particularly on the atmospheric title cut."
-- Jim Green/Jem Aswad, trouserpress.com
2004: The Singles
This 28-track singles collection encompasses most of the highlights of the Associates illustrious career (1980-1990) that mixed influences from art-rock, glam and even disco. Released in July 2004 on Wea International Records.
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