Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.


The Affectionate Punch

All ten songs on The Affectionate Punch are nearly swollen with ambition and swagger, yet those attributes are confronted with high levels of anxiety and confusion, the sound of prowess and hormones converging head-on. It's not always pretty, but it's unflaggingly sensational, even when it slows down. Having debuted with a brazen reduction of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging" to a spindly rumble, multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine and vocalist Billy Mackenzie ensured instant attention and set forward with this, their first album. Mackenzie's exotic swoops cover four octaves, from the kind of isolated swagger heard in Bowie's "Secret Life of Arabia" to a falsetto more commonly heard in an opera house than a bar. (Dude sounds like a diva, so proceed with caution if you'd much rather hear a voice in line with PiL's John Lydon or Magazine's Howard Devoto.) Though the subject matter of the duo's songs would later veer into the completely inscrutable, there's some abstract wordplay here that scans like vocal exercises or Scott Walker at his most surreal: "Stencilled doubts spin the spine, Logan time, Logan time"; "If I threw myself from the ninth story, would I levitate back to three"; "His jaw line’s not perfect but that can be altered." Meaningful or not, there's always a sense of great weight. When Mackenzie runs through the alphabet in "A," he could be singing in code about the butterflies of love. Rankine, with help from drummer Nigel Glockler and a background appearance from then label mate Robert Smith, covers most of the other stuff, specializing in spare arrangements that can simultaneously slither and jump, crosscut with guitars that release weary chimes and caustic stabs, as well as the occasional racing xylophone.

Fated to reside in the popular consciousness as a one-hit combo (they did, in fact, manage three top thirty flurries), and with celebrity fans coming out of the woodwork, the time may be finally ripe to reassess this mercurial Scottish duo. Alchemised from the pairing of Billy Mackenzie's death-defying vocals and Alan Rankine's unconventional instrumentation, The Affectionate Punch was their first major statement of intent in 1980, and remarkably - for such an artefact of its time - age has not withered this 25th anniversary reissue one jot.
Bonding over their love of Berlin Hansa-era Bowie (their first recording adventure - Boys Keep Swinging - is included here as a bonus), the Associates' sound always veered dangerously close to something approaching totalitarian chic. Such flirting was lingua franca for the time, yet what saved the duo were both a sense of impish humour and an innate belief in their own un-tutored talents. Thus Punch boasts a rude confidence as Billy's swooping and swooning mannerisms are multitracked over audacious arrangements. The only thing that places it as an early 80s artefact is the sound of guitars squeezed through chorus pedals and drums so gated that they sound like cardboard boxes. Otherwise this could be music from Mars; so oddly 'other' is its approach. Mackenzie's voice was already utterly unique in its octave-spanning bravado, but the whole construction just seems like something constrained and constricted to fit studio technology that wasn't ready for the job. Who knows how they'd sound these days?
And the lyrics? Ah, here lay the boys' trump card. Just as the sound is pressed thin by its limitations, so the words seem to strain to express feelings and places not meant to be pinned down by syllables. In turns sexually ambivalent (A Matter Of Gender), violently surreal (The Affectionate Punch), wildly romantic (Even Dogs In The Wild) or just incomprehensible (Logan Time) they spill out like postcards from an imaginary Europe. Half chanson, half krautrock. Totally their own.
The haste and budgetary restraints meant that the follow ups (Fourth Drawer Down and Sulk) were both more acceptably polished and more outlandish. Indeed their first major label signing saw them packed off to the studio to remix this whole album for re-release - but it now stands as a worthy document on its own. Few bands today would dare to be so audacious...

Ripped from the 2005 Remastered and Expanded CD to Mp3 @ 320kbps

The Associates; The Affectionate Punch

1.     The Affectionate Punch
2.     Amused As Always
3.     Logan Time
4.     Paper House
5.     Transport To Central
6.     A Matter Of Gender
7.     Even Dogs In The Wild
8.     Would I… Bounce Back
9.     Deeply Concerned
11.You Were Young
12. Janice
13. Boys Keep Swinging
14. Mona Property Girl


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