A FLURRY OF Associates reissues keeps the Porky sty happy.
The remastered releases include the first three albums, The Affectionate Punch, Fourth Drawer Down and Sulk, all with an extra disk of splendiferous outtakes and B-sides and the now-obligatory booklets.
However, and somewhat insanely, I will bypass these three (I have previously reviewed the classic Sulk), at least for now, and focus on what would appear to be a tiresome cash-in with a title that keeps to the tradition of simplicity for such anthologies, The Very Best Of. This may seem contradictory given the cover art is of an old photograph, the liner notes are sparse and it omits a big chunk of the act’s history. But it has its merits.
Naturally, it includes the three hits which propelled them to playful and glamorous appearances on Top of the Pops – Party Fears Two, Club Country and 18 Carat Love Affair, along with the former’s AA-sided partner, Love Hangover. These complete the singles disk; the compiler has opted to ignore everything after Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine went their separate ways promptly following the final hit, with MacKenzie thereafter keeping the banner with moderate success (two excellent singles, Those First Impressions and Waiting For The Love Boat).
The hit parade includes their very first effort, a now very obscure but very ropey cover of Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging – frankly there’s no getting around criticising this under-produced barely listenable take, but it did get them noticed, which was its purpose.
It’s followed by a string of tracks released in 1980 and 1981, some relentlessly grinding as they attempted to develop their electro-art cabaret style. But there is the supremely garish pop of A where Oor Billy rattles off all 26 letters with dazzling aplomb and the haunting mystique of White Car In Germany with its encephalonuous lyrics: “Anonymous as bathrooms/ Androgynous as Dachshunds” and keeping faith with his north-east Scotland roots by noting that “Aberdeen’s an old place”.
The carrot to this anthology is an entire disk of hitherto largely unheard tracks, all but three of them having appeared some years ago on Double Hipness, a lavish array of demo-stage recordings, including the paen, as it were, to Morrissey, Stephen, You’re Really Something. This album is only in the homes of true diehards.
The trio of songs that haven’t featured anywhere before are a surprisingly engaging version of the 1960’s standard Eloise, Jukebox Bucharest, which was recorded around 1978 or 79, and a fuller version of Double Hipness.
As I furrowed through this collection I came to realise it was less of a thrill than I first anticipated, other than the discovery of the noted unreleased tracks. I didn’t especially need to again hear International Loner nor a live version of Gloomy Sunday. I can only assume its compiler, the former band member during this period, Michael Dempsey, had trawled the vaults for what was available.
It’s clear that, with MacKenzie’s star still high and interest in the act failing to fade, a box set is required, capturing everything that was recorded up to and beyond the point at which the two main protagonists split. With all the bells and whistles.