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  • Sulk
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
53
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change


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on 22 May 2016
A great re-release of a classic album originally released in 1982. Still sounds timeless over 30 years later.
I guess you know the album’s context – Billy Mackenzie (soaring vocalist) and Alan Rankine (multi-instrumentalist) along with guest musicians were let loose in the aptly named The Playhouse (studios) and let their imaginations run riot. New Romantics were in vogue, but the Associates used this as an inspiration whilst sniggering at the trends - check out lyrics to 'Club Country'. Peerless single 'Party Fears Two' (with euphoric TOTP appearances) was coupled with an album of lush arrangements and bonkers lyrics that all make perfect sense. Recorded in a frenetic period that was to prove the apex of the band.
This is a solid reissue of a fabulous album. Never has an album cover so aptly matched the music within – lush setting, awash with nightclub lighting, insouciant and smouldering expressions and a liberal dash of spontaneity.
This is the 4th time I have bought this album, so what’s new in this version?
• Sourced from original ¼ inch tape – the best it has ever sounded, at last! Brings out all the instruments and shows off Alan Rankine's contribution.
• Longest version of Part Fears Two (at 5:34) - epic.
• 12” of Country Club (6:55) good to have. 'Every breath belongs to someone there'.
• Instrumental version of Party Fears Two - lovely.
• It’s Better This Way (the best break-up song ever) with alternative version (B-side to PF2) which as Billy notes at the end ‘was at a groovy, groovy speed’.
• Other extras of singles, various demos and 5 previously unreleased tracks which show work in progress. I loved them, others may think that it is too much exposure. The demos sound better when all together and in context as on the previously released 'Double Hipness'.
• Updated perspective in the sleeve-notes. However they do not cover ‘the making of’ which is a story in itself (for more check out 'The Glamour Chase' by Tom Doyle The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy Mackenzie - a good read).
Other comments for context:
The running times are 43 minutes and 53 minutes respectively so this was room for more material. This is a shame as their John Peel session from April 1981 would have made a FABULOUS addition. It catches them at the peak of their powers working fresh and spontaneously outside of the multiple overdubs on the album. Only currently available on the expensive ‘Associates at the BBC Vol. 1 1981-83’ and You T*be. There are also some US mixes which I have elsewhere - but my recollection is that these are interesting, but not essential
The mix is slightly bass-heavy (as the remaster is by Michael Dempsey the original bass player) and the ‘sparkle’ in the keyboards appears to be a bit swamped. The 80s drum sound has not dated well. But these are all minor quibbles, to me.
Overall a good reissue of a great album. It really is Better This Way - buy it and be amazed at an epic album that will still sound fresh in 2082!
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on 7 April 2017
My girlfriend in college was much cooler than me, so this was in her collection. It's musically and lyrically brilliant. This is a band that uses four-syllable words, by heck! It's of the eighties, but The Associates were always smart enough to recognise the passing fads for what they were, so (seemingly) restricted their excesses to buying a better cut of black clothing as they spent their advance in London's newly smart shops. Bored with modern music? Give this a chance and be sure to play it at least twice.
My favourite CD at the moment.
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on 5 May 2017
This is still outstanding to listen to, can't see it ever aging, and that voice, that astonishing, all-powerful wondrous thing. What a loss.
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on 20 May 2016
Utterly, utterly beautiful!! I have never felt compelled to write a review on Amazon before now...
This transports me back to 1982 when I was 15 years old & the first time I say Billy & Alan on TOTP (every teenager watched TOTP back then) & we were all talking about the guy in the beret & that voice the next day in school....wonderful memories. This is a top 5 album for me & the re-masters have been sympathetically produced just lifting the amazing music & vocals of Billy Mackenzie to an even higher standard of excellence. The melodies & that piano riff on Party Fears Two are just unforgettable & have stayed with me for almost 35 years now...thank you to Billy & Alan for such magnificent musical memories...William you were really something!
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on 11 June 2013
I bought this Lp back in the early 80s, and played it till it was virtually unplayable... then it was forgotten about.. BUT, Ive re discovered it on CD... and my god how unappreciative I was of its rich over tones, ultra fab bass... jingling guitars and sublime drums... and My McKenzies outrageously superb voice.. it soars and swoops like a golden eagle. my god.. this CD is so so so advanced for its time.. it could easily stand up to todays music and blow it clean into the water... a frankly fantastic CD... and that I mean from my heart
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on 20 May 2016
Have yet to fully digest the second disc, but the re-mastering from 1/4" tape of the original album on CD1 is wonderful!

Officianados will also be delighted that Club Country is returned to its full 5:38 glory, not the 4:59 edit that mysteriously appeared on the 2000 V2 release. This CD is not mastered too loud, and seems to approach the dynamics of the original vinyl, and then some!

CD2 does have the 12" Love Hangover, what appears to be the original b-side alternative version of It's Better This Way, and the rather different John Leckie produced tracks, all of which make this disc a worthy companion. The 2 demos of the hit singles are a bit murky sound-wise, although Billy's vocals and the complexity of the arrangements still shine through, but the original b-side mix of Ulcragyceptomel is still missing in action (as is its partner in crime, AG Its You Again). At 55min it might have been nice to also have the US remixes of It's Better This Way and Party Fears Two, as they've only surfaced on the original scarce CD issue, but that's a very minor quibble!

The chunky booklet, whilst a little difficult to get out from the central digipack compartment, is a great read with some new photos and full lyrics. For the main album, and an interesting second disc that includes some real rarities, this expanded reissue is a must have!
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on 16 October 2004
One of the great bands, as everyone who saw them when they broke through in the eighties knows. Who say them on BA Robertson's (Mr Bang Bang himself) late night Friday music & chat, where they made their live (!) t.v. debut ? Mackenzie dressed as a airline pilot, chewing on gum, whilst miming along to his prerecorded track for Party Fears Two. Instant stardom followed and this album manages to throw all the justice onto one collection. Sure, the star waned, but he left too early and left us all with some of the greatest warblings put onto vinyl in the post punk decade. Unresistable - plus, what else has Dundee offered the world ? Buy two.
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on 24 May 2016
How many copies do I need? I remember buying the US version of this back in ninety eighty mumble mumble. Then I bought the cassette containing the US and the UK versions. Then I bought the 2001 V2 reissue, and now I've just bought this. First off, I'm glad that the main album and the extra tracks are on separate CDs, I like the original album to stand on its own.

Now we appear to have the full original UK version of Club Country, the V2 reissue having the 7" edit instead. Party Fears Two is slightly different here to the V2 reissue (most noticeable on the intro), and I suspect the latter is actually the US remix, although I don't have access to the US version now so I can't confirm.

Their cover of Gloomy Sunday has always sent shivers down my spine, Skipping is as mournful as ever, Nude Spoons and Bap De La Bap as ridiculously bonkers. And as for the singles, sublime!

On CD2, the versions of Australia and And Then I Read A Book are different versions to those on the V2 reissue, and here we have the full 12" of Club Country. The demo of the latter is also worth a listen - it's quite rough and ready but it has a certain energy. Not so fussed on alternative versions of It's Better This Way and Skipping, but it's interesting to hear works in progress. Also interesting is I Never Will, a demo of Party Fears Two with slightly different lyrics.

It would be nice if the US remix of It's Better This Way had surfaced too, but it's hardly a deal breaker. It's a shame that The Room We Sat In Before, the guitar and voice only demo of It's Better This Way, didn't make it on to CD2, there's certainly room for it. Oh well, I'll just have to hang on to both versions, it's only one more CD width on the shelf!

So the answer to my opening question is, at the moment, two. (Maybe three if I still possess that darned cassette...)
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on 25 February 2016
This album sounded like nothing else in 1982, and still sounds like nothing else. Unfortunately, the original UK vinyl release has not been bettered on CD as yet, in terms of content and sound. When I bought the first CD version in the late 1980's, I was disappointed to find it contained the American edition, where the original track-listing had seemingly been replaced for commercial reasons, as opposed to artistic ones.

This more recent CD release from the year 2000 restores the UK edition, and adds 7 bonus tracks, but to me it does not sound quite the same as the 1982 vinyl LP. According to another reviewer, it may also contain a shorter version of the single 'Club Country'. If I remember correctly, the vinyl LP did not have a traditional 'side 1' or 'side 2'. It had a 'green side' (the more commercial side) and a 'purple' side (the more 'difficult' side). For me, the green side was the more natural 'side 1'. Here, this CD begins with the more challenging music from the 'purple' side.

In 1982, the first 5 tracks here seemed pretty far-out, having heard only the 2 hit singles ('Party Fears Two' being the other hit). The music had a dark, even depressing feel, which required a number of plays to fully appreciate. The track 'Bap De La Bap' seemed hard to comprehend, at first. Back then, I didn't even know that 'Gloomy Sunday' was a cover.

The only tracks I would remove from this CD are the 2 'more commercial' bonus tracks, 'Love Hangover' (not as good as the Diana Ross recording) and '18 Carat Love Affair' (not as good as the original instrumental 'Nothing In Something Particular'). The most impressive bonus track is the stripped-down version of 'It's Better This Way'. The original UK album does not really need additional bonus material, however.

'Sulk' remains impressive for it's originality and uncompromising artistic vision, with unusual arrangements by multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine, and distinctive vocals by the late Billy Mackenzie. May I suggest that the album is reissued next time as a quality analogue transfer of the stand-alone UK release (not 'remastered') to restore 'The Associates' finest album for a more authentic listening experience.

2016 2-Disc Reissue (New Review)

The sound of the original UK vinyl release of ‘Sulk’ may be hard to beat, but the 2016 2-disc version is a definite improvement on the 2000 reissue. This time, there is a fuller sound, instead of a ‘compression nightmare’. Also, the full-length album version of ‘Club Country’ has been restored to the running order. I still say that the LP side (from ‘Skipping’ to ‘Nothinginsomethingparticular’) is the more natural ‘side one’, but here the darker/more difficult side starts the CD once again.

My 2000 CD of ‘Sulk’ (now sold) had the bonus track ‘Ulcragyceptimol’. The reason I got rid of the CD is because I believed that the start of ‘Ulcragyceptimol’ was ‘skipping’ (pun intended) but here on this new edition it sounds EXACTLY THE SAME! Perhaps this IS the way it is meant to sound.

Regarding the 13 track ‘bonus disc’ (55:44) I would like to say it contains ‘essential’ rarities, but for the most part, it does not. The version of ‘Love Hangover’ (6:10) is too long; I prefer the Diana Ross version anyway. The 7 minute ‘mash-up’ of ‘Club Country’ is also too long. The instrumental take (or ‘backing track’) of ‘Party Fears Two’ is okay, but rather pointless.

Most interesting of all is the ‘Party Fears Two’ Demo called ‘I Never Will’, with different lyrics; the unreleased alternate take of ‘Skipping’, and the previously mentioned ‘Ulcragyceptimol’. The best bonus track on the last reissue (2000) was the alternative version of ‘Its Better This Way’, not included here. There IS a different recording of the latter song however, with mostly spoken lyrics; like a ‘guide vocal’. The John Leckie produced ‘Me, Myself and the Tragic Story’ is a different version of the instrumental ‘Arrogance Gave Him Up’.

Despite reservations about the bonus material, it is good to have the original UK edition of ‘Sulk’ (as opposed to the US edition) on a ‘stand-alone’ CD with upgraded sound.
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on 5 July 2000
If you lived in the UK in the early 80's you might possibly have already submitted to the Associates previous two outings; '4th drawer down' and 'the affectionate punch', therefore the beautiful arrogance of 'Sulk' would not have been such a shock. If the wailing of 'party fears 2' was your first taste of the Rankine/Mackenzie brew then your brain may still be scrambled! 18 years on Sulk still sounds like nothing else ever made. Witness, if you will, such polished diamonds as 'it's better this way', 'nude spoons', and Billy's reworking of the epic 'gloomy sunday' and realise that 'Sulk' is a complete one-off in the arena of late 20th Century popular(and not so popular) music. An essential purchase!
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