Monday, January 21, 2008

Fourth drawer down - Associates

Tomorrow being, tragically, the anniversary of Billy Mackenzie's death (a prospect which I can attribute some of the miserablism I feel this week as it is never very fulfilling to be reminded that someone so talented has disappeared from the world even if it was not one in which they could live adequately or even bear to) I thought it was timely to reflect on the various albums which are starting to obscure the sight of my CD player at home so large is the pile growing. Picking one at random gets me to 'Fourth drawer down' a claustrophobic and schizophrenic album if ever there was one. It is captivating however in its monstrosity and anyone idly surfing the net for information on the Associates cannot miss the stories behind the making of this album, seemingly an excuse for crazy experimentation involving such things as cups stuck on heads, fish stapled to coats, weeing into guitars, putting drums into water, you know the usual stuff, fuelled apparently by copious amounts of drugs and vampirish nocturnal habits as that was the only time they could get into a studio. Still if artists are going to be wildly experimental and apparently imbue copious amounts of drugs then it would be fabulous if only the results could be half as inventive and compelling and nightmarish as the gems served up by Mr Mackenzie and Rankine for consumption (the hacking cough at the end of 'Q Quarters' inspired this terrible pun in case you were wondering).

'White car in Germany' immediately unsettles with its dirge-like ponderousness and booming vocals detailing a pessimistic, if obscure, site-seeing tour - what happened to the future being bright and all? Whilst 'A girl named property' must never ever be played whilst walking around a grey city on a miserable wet day for fear of civilisation crashing down (best save it for food shopping in the local capitalist-friendly supermarket, the brightly coloured vegetables become ever more disturbing when set against the elegant and melancholy backdrop). 'Kitchen person' ups the tempo to well above 11, hardly pausing for breath - guitars pushed to their limits, giddy glockenspiels, shuddering bass lines - it is with delight that you find Billy M singing through a vaccuum cleaner tube and wonder if any household item is safe in this pair's hands.... Haunted by the discordant sound of organs to sink down to the depths amongst the weeds with 'Q Quarters' convinced that Alan R must have stolen a submarine for this one (suddenly drums in the water start to make sense), the lyrics made doubly sinister by the matter-of-fact delivery ('washing down bodies seems to me a dead end job'). Extreme paranoia seems to inflict the narrator of 'Tell me easter's on friday' and the fear is only lifted with the infectious bounce of a tune that is 'Message oblique speech' well as bouncy as this collection gets. Try guessing what the lyrics mean.... 'An even whiter car' sounds like the Berlin wall falling also this predates that event by several years. 'Fearless (it takes a full moon)' is not immediately appealing, more gloomy than doomy, but 'Point Si' takes us back to greatness. A couple of instrumentals next, in the intensity of 'Straw Towels' it is almost possible to sense the overdose which consigned our two fearless musical innovators to matching hospital beds and 'Kissing' is fun, less twisted than its predecessors and (almost!) hints at disco. Just when you think it's about to become normal we find Billy M singing in the bath, water dripping (clearly not well by the dreadful coughing), frightful sounds in the background - oh its only 'kitchen person' and 'white car in germany', of course! - a suitably bizarre ending. Although I find the entire album only possible if in sane mind (kitchen person is sure to drive me over the edge one day I can tell) and stable condition I cannot think of anything (yet) which could possibly compare to its inventiveness. I'll let you know when I do.

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