Album #512 – Sulk

Album #512

It is hard for me to place this album, or The Associates for that matter, anywhere. The were categorized as a synth pop group but, they were also very experimental, taking from the post-punk tradition. What I liked most about the group, was lead singer Billy MacKenzie’s voice. It sounds somewhat like David Bowie but he had more range and depth. The emotions come seeping through on songs like Gloomy Sunday and Club Country. It is one of the finest voices I have heard in terms of synth pop bands.Sadly, like many greats in pop music, MacKenzie committed suicide in 1997. The music presented on Sulk is not your typical sunshiney or sexual synth pop. It is much more cryptic and all over the place. Sulk was a hit in the UK. Party Fears Two and Club Country made the top 40 and the group played Top of The Pops after both singles did well on the charts. TOTP is the UK equivalent of American Bandstand only, it featured a rundown of the top 40 chart and select acts miming in studio to their tracks each week. The Associates took advantage of this and did outrageous things for both performances. To the group, their music was more than just a look.

If anything, their performances mocked the absurdity of the synth pop age: style over substance. The album’s track listing was changed for North America and the Associates were just a blip on the radar. But, in the UK, they were among a group of new acts that dared to make pop music exciting, unpredictable and individualistic. From their TV appearances alone, they definitely succeeded. The group remained with MacKenzie at the helm but, the magic and risk taking he captured with guitarist and co-writer Alan Rankine, would never be duplicated as he left after Sulk’s release.  Overall, I give Sulk, 4 out of 5.

Next: Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden!!!

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