Associates – ‘The Very Best Of’ UK CD [Metro Select, METRSL123, 2016]

The recent announcement of yet another re-issue of ‘Sulk’ (this time to mark the 40th anniversary of its first release) got me reaching back to 2016’s selection of CD releases to refresh the memory banks of what versions were out there… and reminded me of this curious compilation and what it had to offer to justify the shelf space…

Did we need another Associates compilation? There were already ‘Popera’, ‘Double Hipness’ and ‘Singles’, after all. It was part of the 2016 CD re-issue campaign that saw the Associates first three albums issued on double CD sets with a welter of extras. This set pre-dated the new re-issues by a month or so, presumably to whet the appetite. Turns out, this ‘The Very Best Of’ 2 x CD set was a curious item. First off, the title – perhaps you might argue that CD 1 of the set could possibly fit the bill of the title – but it has nothing post-1982 in its tracklisting. And as for CD 2 – a round up of all kinds of odds and ends with the bait of three previously unreleased recordings as the lure for purchase. A rum do indeed… perhaps ‘Associates Anthology’ might have fit the bill better as a title.

Associates - The Very Best Of - front cover design
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – front cover design

First off, those three previously unreleased recordings salting disc 2…

‘Eloise’ is a relic from the band’s earliest pre-Associates days of gigging as a covers act around the Scottish working men’s clubs/hotel dancehall circuits, their own rendition of Paul and Barry Ryan’s track, which would of course later be immortalised by The Damned. This version, as you might imagine if you are familiar already with the ‘Double Hipness’ compilation, is a rather high-spirit power-pop take on the song. Same could be said for the second of these tracks, ‘Jukebox Bucharest’ – when the influence of the Rezillos are mentioned in the same breath as Associates, this track could well be exhibit A for the prosecution… recording quality is a bit glitchy in parts, otherwise decent.

‘Double Hipness’ had already been released back in 2000 and beget the title of the ‘Double Hipness’ 2 x CD compilation of unreleased material. The version that was debuted on that compilation was a fairly basic, minimal drum machine driven recording hailing, I believe, from late 1979 or early 1980 – the version that gets an outing on ‘The Very Best Of’ is a wholly more full-blooded band take. Is it better, is it worse? Your ears shall be your own merchant on this one.

Associates - The Very Best Of - rear cover design
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – rear cover design

Back on CD 1, we find that the versions of the tracks where there are possible variations in the selection between album or 12″ or 7″ (or more!) go for the 7″ mixes on the whole. Fine – though it would have been nice perhaps to see something such as the 12″ mix of ‘Tell Me Easter’s On Friday’ making an appearance on CD format at long last given the chance, since it appears to be missing in action to this day.

Associates - The Very Best Of - gatefold
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – gatefold

We’ve covered the three unreleased tracks, but what else is to be found on CD2 of this ‘Very Best Of’? These are almost all selected from across the ‘Double Hipness’ compilation of hitherto obscurities and demos – it’s quite a stretch of the imagination to be counting any as ‘The Very Best Of’. So, it’s not a great title, lets face it. Other than those three unreleased tracks, its not really a compilation that brings much to the party, since all of the 7″ mixes/edits were previously gathered up on the 2004 ‘Singles’ compilation CD, after all.

Associates - The Very Best Of - disc labels
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – disc labels

Full tracklisting is as follows (with track duration timings taken from the discogs.com listing for the release):
Disc One:

  1. Boys Keep Swinging (3:43)
  2. The Affectionate Punch (3:30)
  3. Tell Me Easter’s On Friday (7″ Mix) (4:31)
  4. Q Quarters (4:57)
  5. Kitchen Person (7″ Mix) (3:33)
  6. “A” (1981 Remix) (3:55)
  7. Message Oblique Speech (7″ Mix) (4:01)
  8. White Car In Germany (7″ Mix) (4:55)
  9. Kites (7″ Mix) (3:49)
  10. Party Fears Two (7″ Mix) (4:09)
  11. Club Country (7″ Mix) (4:10)
  12. 18 Carat Love Affair (3:41)
  13. Love Hangover (7″ Mix) (4:20)

Disc Two:

  1. Eloise (3:43)
  2. Jukebox Bucharest (3:09)
  3. Window Shopping (Instrumental) (1:35)
  4. Double Hipness (Alternative Version) (3:43)
  5. The Affectionate Punch (Demo) (1:45)
  6. The Room We Sat In Before (3:30)
  7. Galaxy Of Memories (1:27)
  8. Gloomy Sunday (Live – ICA 1980) (4:27)
  9. Waiting For The Loveboat (Instrumental) (4:46)
  10. Stephen, You’re Really Something (4:45)
  11. Fear Is My Bride (5:03)
  12. International Loner (7:31)
  13. Edge Of The World (6:59)
Associates - The Very Best Of - booklet inner spread 1
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – booklet inner spread 1

The imminent 40th anniversary 3 x CD (+ vinyl) set will see a few more hitherto unreleased recordings made available from the archives… and frustratingly, a few period B sides that have never graced the CD format will remain extant. I feel a whole article digging into the version craziness of the ‘Sulk’ era may be due… one that goes beyond our initial foray, Side by side: Associates ‘Sulk’ UK / European / US variations.

Associates - The Very Best Of - booklet inner spread 2
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – booklet inner spread 2
Associates - The Very Best Of - booklet inner spread 3
^ Associates – The Very Best Of – booklet inner spread 3

7 Replies to “Associates – ‘The Very Best Of’ UK CD [Metro Select, METRSL123, 2016]”

  1. a release of 2 sides giving the listener the choice to either play the “Hits” (disc 1: if Associates singles can be called hits apart from the obvious handfull) or the slightly more obscure (disc 2). Metro Select/Union Square Music, the label this release is on, have a history of releasing “Best Of” compilations that have a straight forward selection on disc 1 and a slightly left of centre collection on disc 2 when concentrating a release on a particular artist, the majority of their releases being Various Artist collections. the Propaganda, Art Of Noise, Frankie Goes To Hollywood releases all have the first disc which you could happily play in the company of others while the second disc is for a more personal listen, the Madness release still has some of their hits on the second disc but these are few, the Thompson Twins second disc goes back to their early incarnation when there was more twins than in a fertilisation clinic. the list continues (although i wouldn’t swear that the same is true about the Dubliners release). “A tale of 2 sides” maybe, but i do like this division which makes these releases neither a “Best of” or “An anthology”

  2. The vexing qualities of the many versions of “Sulk” cause me irritation. I would have to say that the firs tUK LP issue is canonical, and if you can’t follow that then don’t bother. Though the US Edition/German CD of the Sire Records version makes enough sense. It’s a different album entirely! You remind me that to this day I still don’t have any of those 2016 2xCD editions. Spending $50-60 for a handful of “new” Associates tracks stayed my hand, but I should get them before they are a small fortune! My existential problem in a nutshell: not buying things when they are newly released and cheaper due to pouring the budget into catching up with things that were cheap, but are now OOP [or reading there!

  3. A good point – I do have the Propaganda and Art Of Noise compilations and should delve back into those too…

  4. That’s the thing with re-issues, you can never be sure whether they are going to stay in print awhile or vanish all too soon and then have to cough up a packet to buy them. Those Associates 2x CD sets from 2016 also come in cardboard covers, so as time goes by even picking up second hand sets will mean possibly more tatty condition packaging (if that’s an issue for you). What puzzles me with ‘Sulk’ and it’s reissues is there seems to be no firm idea of what to do for the best – the upcoming super deluxe set and the 2016 set seems neither fish nor fowl. Neither are going for a completist, definitive approach, obviously – as the period B sides are missing (‘A.G It’s You Again’, ‘Voluntary Wishes – Swap It Production’, the version of ‘Ulcragyceptimol’ from the actual 12” single – all substituted instead for alternative versions of the same songs (the John Leckie productions of ‘Me, Myself and the Tragic Story’ and ‘Australia’, the different mix of ‘Ulcragyceptimol’ that was also on the 2000 CD, meaning the actual originally released mix has never appeared on CD as yet… will it finally see a release on the box set? I don’t get why those other two remain missing in action. Thank goodness for wonderful sites such as Burning The Ground and high quality rips.

  5. And now to add to the consumer challenges around this forthcoming super-deluxe of ‘Sulk’ – buy from the official store and get a gold cassette single of ’18 Carat Love Affair’/’Love Hangover’… or, now buy from the Super Deluxe Edition website for a version that comes with an exclusive 6 track CD single! Sadly, despite the five different cuts of ‘Party Fears Two’ in one form or another, they have missed out the ‘Associates’ 4 track promo CD (V2, VVR5011563P).

  6. Good point from Lieutenant 030 on the Union Square tactic. It make for a Best of/Rest of approach that’s better that another G hits, yet less than a box. I think there’s a room for that approach.

    I went with the SDE exclusive bundle, and was glad to do so! Their pricing meant that the “free” PF2 CD-5 really was free! Plus, the shipping costs of the bundle to The States was less than half of what Townsend was asking – only £18!! A huge difference to the amount Townsend was charging. My friend Schwenko ordered both. I paid $88 for the SDE bundle with shipping. He paid $119 from Townsend with shipping!! As I have the V2 PF2 promo CD, I’m set there. But most are not! Yes, a truly expansive 4xCD “Sulk” would have been marvelous, but that was not in the cards. Why? Well, I was obviously not in charge! I’m just hoping against hope that the 1st UK LP of music will be on Disc 1! The history of this album says no, though. So fingers crossed!

  7. “Yes, a truly expansive 4xCD “Sulk” would have been marvellous, but that was not in the cards. Why? Well, I was obviously not in charge” LoL – I like it – you should be in charge! I have high hopes that the LP will mirror the original UK mixes as I think they are the 2016 remasters – and that had the correct mixes of e.g. ‘Club Country’ for sure- ‘Party Fears Two’ is definitely NOT the Mark Arthurworrey mix, as I recall, unlike the 2000 CD remaster. Good result on the postage – I sense that Townsend may have had a flood of prior order cancellations since the SDE announcement…

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