Liner Note Author: Martin Aston.
The edition of Sulk which was the most common to find while record shopping throughout the late '80s and '90s was originally the American issue. Heavy substitution and track reordering -- a typical enough move on the part of American companies no matter what the act -- resulted in a radically different record. For some strange reason, the European CD issue of the album relied on this American edition, something only finally rectified as part of an overall reissue program in 2000. All this said, while this second edition sacrifices some of the quirky edginess of the original, collecting all the major hit singles that made the band such a distinctive U.K. chart presence in the early '80s certainly isn't a problem at all. The three tracks from the second side of the original album -- the bizarro funk of "It's Better This Way," the swooning hyper-romance of "Partyfearstwo," and the nervy, sped-up rush of "Club Country" -- here lead off the record, followed by the OK-enough remake of Diana Ross' "Love Hangover" and the charming "18 Carat Love Affair." As for the remaining tracks, "Arrogance Gave Him Up," "No," "Skipping," and "Gloomy Sunday" are retained in a much different order, while "Bap de la Bap," "Nude Spoons," and "Nothinginsomethinginparticular" are removed in favor of early single "White Car in Germany" and "The Associate." All changes and switches aside, it's still very much the Associates at probably the best period of their career. Mackenzie's impossibly piercing cabaret falsetto rivals that of obvious role model Russell Mael from Sparks, while Rankine's ear for unexpected hooks and sweeping arrangements turns the stereotypes of early-'80s synth music on their heads. The bass work from ex-Cure member Michael Dempsey isn't chopped liver either, and the result is a messy but wonderful triumph no matter what version is found. ~ Ned Raggett