Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Affectionate Punch - Associates

I was shocked today to find out that Heath Ledger, actor, was found dead yesterday aged only 28 years old. It seems likely that a drugs overdose was involved although that is pure speculation at the moment and it does not seem right to inquire further. Whatever the reason, it is sad that the world has lost another talented individual. May he rest in peace.

I spent most of yesterday listening to the Associates, it seemed the right thing to do. I always lack the eloquence to say how much things mean to me but it is unhappy that Billy Mackenzie is not around to know how much people miss him and love his music. I recently joined a thread celebrating him and the music of the Associates and it seems that everyone is so much better at expressing their feeling for the music, for Billy and how it/he means so much to them. Not that it really matters, we all contribute in our own little way, even just by listening, loving and passing on the enthusiasm.

Imagine a place where music was always inventive. Imagine a place where music had influences but those influences were only a foundation on which to build rather than the reason for being. They were in the heart and not on the sleeve. Imagine music which sounded like nothing that came before it and nothing that came after it; kings of 'top of the pops' all too briefly, unable to live up to their own high (if torturously achieved) achievements and disappearing into limbo pursued by ghosts screaming "bring us another SULK!!!!" 'The Affectionate Punch' is both nothing like Sulk - which is far more hysteric, melancholic, mischevious, glamourous and epheremal - but everything like it (can be traced from it), sharing a sheer diversity of mood, an electricism found in the relationship between music and voice and an exuberance which is infectious - take 'A', where Billy for the most part sings the alphabet and makes it seem the most interesting and poetic thing in the world (Robert Smith of the Cure apparently does backing vocals on this but it is impossible to tell as Billy must have smothered him), or the jaunty 'Would I... bounce back', with Billy singing 'If I threw myself from the ninth storey would I levitate back to three, well would I' assured (then) of his own immortality. 'Transport to Central' is rather odd and creepy, however suprisingly there are some tender moments - surprising because regarding 'Sulk' and 'Fourth Drawer Down' there are very few moments which could be described thus ('18 carat love affair' is too tongue in cheek, 'Gloomy sunday' well, too gloomy) although Billy's later output could lay claim to many such moments. Anyhow, here we have 'Logan Time', sad and affecting, mourning either loss or absence - 'I talk such nonsense while asleep / I lie for hours without your heat.' And 'Deeply concerned' with its combination of gentle piano and Billy's wrenching sighs at the end convinces. Everything works - there is no dull moment, Alan's virtuosity on everything except drums the perfect foil e.g. 'Paper House' with its riffs reminiscent of celtic wildernesses and 'Even dogs in the wild' a song which attempts social comment but gives up halfway through, and Lastly, 'A matter of gender' which captures the excitement of wanton behaviour (perhaps). And there are bonuses! 'You were young' which worries with its too catchy refrain of 'youth is hope/ age is corruption', 'boys keep swinging' the cheeky Bowie cover and b-side 'Mona property girl' which first launched the Associates on an unsuspecting (and unfortunately unimpressed) public. I doubt it would impress more people now, pop if anything is sadly sliding into the mire, drowning under reality TV shows and the lack of 'Top of the Pops' which whilst rubbish was entertaining rubbish and now I have gone for several years (maybe 5?) without knowing or even caring what is Number 1. This speaks to me of the hope that pop always has, to be vital, strange, to be reflecting moods which we all feel if we allow ourselves.

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