Sunday, January 26, 2014

THROWBACK 1980 || The Associates: "Paper House"

Never released as a single, "Paper House" remains one of the more overlooked - and elegant - entries in the tragically short lived career of the already unfairly obscure Scottish band, The Associates (later just Associates). Like the best bands of the time, Associates fused upbeat, minimalist synth patterns with mechanistic percussion and dark, oblique bass/guitar lines to create a dichotomy of repressed alienation.
Much of the band's obscurity stems from guitarist/co-founder Alan Rankine exiting the band after recording 1982's Sulk (but prior to the scheduled tour) at a time when the band were finally being feted by major labels. Singer Billy Mackenzie carried on the name as more of a solo act for the remainder of the 80's, but never matched the chemistry he had with Rankine, and his unwillingness to tour extensively was seen as a liability by label heads that might have otherwise been willing to sign him (Rankine himself may have also had an unspoken reluctance to tour, given that he has spent most of the ensuing three decades in a producer's chair, aside from a brief stint as a solo artist in the late 80's).

The two reconvened in 1993 and recorded a few demos, but nothing ever became of it, and Mackenzie's 1997 suicide brought an end to any question of a comeback. The post-Rankine material recorded by Mackenzie under the Associates name fares better than a lot of past-their-prime material released by other bands of the era, but it's really those first three albums that remain undiscovered gems to many... even in the retro-loving aughts.

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