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Sulk

The Associates

1982

Buy At Rough Trade
Sulk
Album Summary

Sulk is the second studio album by Scottish post-punk and pop band the Associates. It was released on 14 May 1982 on their own Associates imprint of Beggars Banquet Records for the UK and throughout the rest of Europe on WEA Records and in the US on 4 October by Sire Records. It stayed in the UK Albums Chart for 20 weeks, peaking at No. 10, and it was crowned the album of the year by British music magazine Melody Maker. Although it was the group's breakthrough record both critically and commercially, it was to be the last studio album recorded by the original pairing of Alan Rankine and Billy Mackenzie, as Rankine departed four months after its release. Sulk was named album of the year for 1982 in Melody Maker and was placed at number 18 in the NME critics' list of albums of the year. eviewing the 2000 reissue David Peschek of Mojo called Sulk "their florid, hysterical masterpiece" and observed, "This remains extraordinarily potent music, a repository of the otherness contemporary pop so lacks". Simon Reynolds stated in Uncut that "Sulk is so lovely it's harrowing... Associates crammed all the derangement and texture-saturated voluptuousness of psychedelia into pop". Ned Raggett of AllMusic said that Sulk was "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."

Wikipedia

Rating

2.38

Votes

10315

Genres

  • Post Punk
  • New Wave

Reviews

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Sun Jul 09 2023
1

The absolute worst that the UK has to offer. Histrionic, tortured vocals on top of bland, homogeneous instrumentals indistinguishable from any other Britpop LP out there. Getting real tired of these, feels like there’s at least two a week when many other albums from the era deserve to be on the list.

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Wed Nov 01 2023
1

I used to work at a video store and we had a section of non-Disney animated features like Simba the King Lion: The Final Battle, stuff to make grandparents stock up on garbage so their grandkids can have lousy sleepovers. Anyway, crank this up and enjoy some Zaggy Moondust and the Arachnids from the Milky Way.

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Fri Jun 02 2023
3

if this album was consistent it would be up there with some of the best of the '80s. Sadly, it's all over the place but the high points are incredible. Is there a more exciting intro to a pop record than the jangle piano on Party Fears Two? A more entertaining vocal performance than on Club Country? Why aren't bands ambitious like this any more? Refrigeration keeps you young, I'm told

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Fri May 19 2023
4

Like if Morrissey joined Devo

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Fri Jun 02 2023
5

The machine chucked an unfamiliar multitude at me today: this record is really very good, and I wish I had more time to listen to it. It's sui generis, and I'm scrambling for references to anchor it - at times, it reminded me of early Sonic Youth, This Heat, Kraftwerk, and acid house, but it's really its own thing. The vocals grated at first, but on the second listen they seemed appropriate, a choice based on the material and what Mackenzie had available to him. Really tempted to give it five stars, though I've barely made it through twice.

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Wed Jun 07 2023
2

Meh, the synthy new wave stuff on the list has been pretty hit or miss for me.

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Mon Nov 13 2023
2

Music God #1: I have a genius idea. Music God #2: Lay it on me, bro. Music God #1: Now stick with me. Some day this will lead us to eargasmic electronica. Music God #2: Uh huh. What? Music God #1: OK. We need an album with some out there experimental sound exploration anchored with some sick keyboards. Music God #2: Experimental you say. Tell me more. Music God #1: Yeah. They are going to fill guitars with urine. Make a drum set with all different types of snares. Music God #2: I’m not so sure. Music God #1: Look, we’ll pair it with some cabaret falsetto vocals. They will complement each other nicely. Music God #2: Are you worried the music will sound like a soundtrack to a cheesy, low budget 80s horror movie spoof. Music God #1: You mean 80s cult classic. Music God #2: No I mean the kind of movie that is so bad it’s making fun of itself. Music God #1: Whatever. Eventually other bands will make fantastic music and this will be a loose step in the right direction to get there. Music God #2: I don’t like the sounds of this and neither will anyone else. I’m using my veto. Music God #1: I’m using my lone veto veto. It’s happening. Music God #2: Fuck.

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Wed May 17 2023
2

This pick was so 80s it hurt me a little bit… I wasn’t a huge fan but I could see my mom jamming out to this!

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Mon Feb 26 2024
2

I love you, David Bowie, but you inspired some truly bad music.

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Mon May 15 2023
1

Not a fan. It's got beeps and boops like some old videogame music. Very 80's. It does transition to boring old snth music and the singing is just annoying. Maybe this was significant when it was made, but it's straight up not enjoyable now.

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Mon Feb 05 2024
1

I really don't understand what there is to like about this. This guy's voice is insufferable. The music sounds terrible. The only reason it's not a half star or zero stars is because it occasionally vaguely resembles music. 1/5

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Fri May 26 2023
5

I knew of The Associates from Party Fears Two, but hadn't explored any of the rest of their ouvre. The music video for Party Fears Two includes Martha Ladly on the keys, formerly of Martha and the Muffins. She's wearing a suit and a hat, and looks exactly as bored as she needs to for the song. It's bizarre, because she's also got the tiniest of beguiling smiles. And that sums up the song perfectly. It is tuneful, poppy and also, 100% entirely unnerving and discordant. The vocals are perfect - slightly Bowie-ish, but in the good way. I genuinely hated it the first time I heard it. It made no sense. It was dissonant. And then the Divine Comedy covered it. If Neil Hannon likes it, I should probably pay more attention to it... but no. Its still nonsensical, dissonant and unnerving. Several years later, with the song appearing in my life from time to time, I find it has changed from being a messy, awkward track to being possibly one of my very favorites from the 1980s. Given it was written in the late 70s, it rather cements The Associates as people to listen to more of. Which I finally got around to doing with this album. Which is excellent. It is both genre-defining, and genre-defiant. It is both a product and a producer of 1980s syth, new romantic and pop. I love it, and think I will continue to love it for quite some time.

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Fri Aug 18 2023
4

This is probably the most 80s album I've had to date. It seems set up to grate, falsetto singing, synth pop, experimental sounds. However, I ended up really enjoying it. I knew the two "hits" which I guess are literally all I had ever heard from this band before. I had a dim recollection of when they first charted that was dredged up from the sludge in my head from the early 80s. This one is extremely hard to score fairly. I feel it's somewhere between a 3 and a 4. It's definitely not a bad album, but it's not a great one either, and I feel I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to it again. I was also horrified to see Spotify stick an extra 50-60 minutes of demos and alternate versions that I wasn't prepared to listen to. I think I'm going to be generous and go for a 4, purely because I love some of the weird instruments I can hear, particularly the jangling piano in "Party Fears Two".

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Mon Sep 11 2023
4

This walks a fine line between the synth pop sound of its time and real experimentation. So many odd details throughout, but nothing that's off-putting or alienating. Just makes you feel a bit woozy. The tales of their decadence and playful insanity while recording the album are as entertaining as the resulting work itself.

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Fri Oct 20 2023
4

This is the opposite of U2. I don't think these guys are as good as I feel they are but I'm digging this. You can feel see Scary Monsters by Bowie on a few of the songs and their instrumental stuff is fun but all over the map. Despite all that I have to say I do dig the singer. He has some moxie and good range. Fast pace and good energy. I also have to say that cover is something bold. ... So I just did a Wikipedia dive after listening and a cited fan and person who was inspired by this bad was... Bono from U2. He said they tried to rip them off because they like them so much. That is such a miss on the attempt. I could see myself relistening to this album. I know I'm rating this either a 3 or 4, if I end up picking 3 that's me voting for the quality more than my enjoyment, 4 is the flip. More and more I'm wondering if my ranking is trying to vote for something more objective in quality or how much I dig what I'm hearing.

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Sun Dec 03 2023
4

I love how gloriously and unashamedly over the top everything about ‘Sulk’ is. The vocals, the production, everything about it is ridiculous. Sure, not everything works, example: ‘Bap De La Bap’ which is the low point of the record is just…shit, but when everything clicks it soars, and the albums highs: ‘No’, ‘Party Fears Two’, ‘Skipping’ and ‘Country Club’ are about as good as 80s synth pop/art rock/dance music gets.

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Thu May 18 2023
3

6/10. Post-punk and pop is an interesting mix here, and it works on a couple songs. But not all of them.

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Fri Nov 24 2023
2

A coke fueled product of its time. If you like synths and whining, you'll love this.

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Mon Mar 18 2024
2

I was actually pretty close to giving this a 1 but after a while, I kind of started to respect the bands decision to make annoying, vocally grating new wave music. I think this might have been another case of "you had to be there", in which case I was certainly not.

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Mon Jan 08 2024
5

An absolute classic. Sounds like lots of other artists (Bowie, natch) and yet also sounds very original. Mackenzie's voice is something else too. The singles are the standouts here, but pretty much the whole album is a masterpiece of early 80s British dance pop while also sounding timeless.

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Tue Feb 20 2024
5

Aldri hørt The Associates før, men da va overraskande nice (vanskelig å hørra når folk snakke så masse rundt meg). Ohh siste sang va gøy

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Thu May 02 2024
5

One of these perfect and highly influential 80s albums that sound very catchy and experimental at the same time. There is a lot going on musically and (apart from the big single) it may take severals listens like all their work, so it is also one of these albums that are not so suitable for the 1-album-per-day 1001 format.. score:10/10

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Fri Jul 12 2024
5

This is such a great, undervalued band with their greatest moment. I loved this album and still do- Billy was a tremendous character with such a great voice. Brings back great memories.

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Thu May 18 2023
4

Feels like we got the same album for a second day in a row. I’ll be fair and give these guys the same ranking as Echo and the Bunnymen but I can’t help feeling like the generator is testing me. 7/10

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Mon May 29 2023
4

Super bonne première impression, mais j'ai fini par trouver ça redondant. Par contre, je dois dire que j'ai trouvé ça surprenant que ça date de 1982, je l'aurais rapproché des années 90, donc je présume qu'ils étaient plutôt avant-gardistes pour l'époque.

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Thu Jun 15 2023
4

frenetico e inesperado. gran sorpresa.

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Sat Jul 08 2023
4

So comforting is Sulk's fit in my mental genre map that I lose the Associate's specificity in the lull. The album's more instrumental moments are highlights, while the vocals are essential. This is of the masterfully-produced school, which unfairly hurts the effect. Very eighties, very prefigurative, etc. etc. Or maybe the lens of this nostalgia looms too large in the twenties. Either way, I'm a sucker.

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Wed Aug 02 2023
4

Really fun - enjoyed some songs more than others. Overall good!

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Fri Aug 18 2023
4

Another undiscovered gem. Not even a name I was familiar with. Loved it.

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Mon Aug 21 2023
4

Actually really awesome, I am astonished at the low rating here Dark and very dramatic post punk Dynamic and interesting 4/4.5

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Thu Sep 21 2023
4

Sounds like a drunk David Bowie

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Sun Oct 01 2023
4

I knew one song, Country Club. Extraordinary vocals. This is a distillation of ‘80s New Romantics/gothic indie/shiny synth-pop (Sparks/Bowie/Cure/Depeche Mode/Spandau Ballet). Takes a few listens, but glad I did because it’s infectious. The pop melodies and the swirling cure-style guitars get right under your skin.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
4

Really great project, so 80s. Can’t believe I don’t know these guys

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Fri Oct 13 2023
4

Pretty sweet stuff, reminded me of the darker side of bands like The Cure. Kind of funny, the more popular song (Party Fears Two) was boring to me but the album cuts were sick. Special shout outs to Bap De La Bap, Nude Spoons, and Club Country for really rocking my world. Some parts fell flat but overall this is a very strong 4 and enthusiastic recommendation.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
4

Poor Billy MacKenzie left us with some of the most beautiful songs ever made with the amazing drama in his voice, seems like syntho-oper! In this album Party Fears and "No" give me the creeps. The synts on some songs are bit outdated, but bless the Associates

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Fri Oct 13 2023
4

Chaotic frenzied gothic rock, very much like a spiritual successor to Joy Division. A haunting and mysterious first side with a New Wave second side to dance to. Really enjoyed it all, plenty to offer and only a few forgettable tracks.

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Sun Oct 15 2023
4

The second half was particularly strong!

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Thu Oct 26 2023
4

Kinda weird but I kinda love it

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Tue Dec 12 2023
4

Dark, atmospheric new wave with a subtle gothic vibe filled with creative ideas and arrangements. I love when the challenge makes audacious choices like this. A great discovery.

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Tue Dec 12 2023
4

As a fan of New Wave and Synthpop, I'm surprised that I didn't know this one. Pretty good, haunting voice on clever instrumentals. Sounds like an Echo & the Bunnymen record, but less flamboyant.

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Wed Dec 13 2023
4

Wow - this sounds like a mutant ABC; if you turned the dials up on their arrangements and vocal affectations you'd get something approximating Sulk. The production sounds busy and Billy McKenzie's yelping tenor might be an acquired taste, but for me it's effective, exciting and idiosyncratic stuff. Full marks to 'Party Fears Two' and the stomping 'Club Country'.

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Wed Dec 20 2023
4

I’m enjoying the gothy bits and the drums mixing with the synth. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of these guys but definately one I’ll explore further.

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Thu Dec 21 2023
4

Pleasant enough, felt very very 80s pop, and indeed it was.

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Thu Dec 28 2023
4

At first I was struggling to get behind the vocals, as while they certainly aren't the most polarizing I've heard, they do catch you off guard, especially after a instrumental opener. However, as the album went on, I was more enthralled by the near perfect blend of pop with that more gothic sound, where every track has you bobbing your head, tapping your foot, all whilst this sinister atmosphere surronds you. The vocals are no longer something to fear, but rather something worth embracing in the more surreal parts of an album. It's glamorous, like a party, but grimy, like an alley, and I think this album as a whole captures the scene of the mid-80s and its music perfectly.

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Mon Jan 08 2024
4

This album doesn't hang together as a whole. It's all the better for it. Sulk is bonkers, with grand, sweeping gestures. It's more like a musical than a pop record. There's no direction from start to finish. I like to get lost in music. Billy was one of the last great pop pantomime Dames. Party Fears Two: Song of the Century.

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Tue Feb 20 2024
4

Oh okay, we’ve got some kind of Scottish U2/Cure mashup here. I like this. I am picking up what they are putting down, and I’m liking it a lot! It runs on a big too long, but it’s such a unique vibe, I wanted to see where it was headed. Side note: Omg! I wrote this before reading the wiki on this band and there’s an ex-Cure member in it!!! Freaking Dempsey on bass, man oh man, my ears know what the fuck is up!

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Wed Feb 21 2024
4

Quite the album-Bowie-esque vocals and great keyboards. The Diana Ross cover is *chef's kiss*

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Thu Mar 14 2024
4

Synth-driven and very atmospheric 80s New wave. Lots of high-tone keys that texture and convey lead/counter-melodies. They get lots of strange and experimental tones/sounds from these keys - like a maxed out chorus pedal sound, a melting song-stopping effect. Vocals are a coy tenor, variously operatic and snapped out (a bit like Bauhaus). There is some swirling textural guitar work creating a stormy unsettling feeling on some tracks. Overall, it's a mixture of poppy major key songs and some dancey tracks but generally more minor key drones/dirges. Reverby drums add a lot of space. Favorites: Party Fears Two, Arrogance Gave Him Up, Gloomy Sunday, Better This Way

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Mon Mar 25 2024
4

This is awesome synth pop for how demented it is, as well as there being some genuinely great cuts. The wacky cover of “Gloomy Sunday” belongs to the former category, while “Club Country” sits firmly in the latter. Overall, I find the novelty very entertaining

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Thu Apr 11 2024
4

Psychedelic post-punk like an acid trip.

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Mon Apr 15 2024
4

Isn’t Asaph tabular as the singles

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Wed May 01 2024
4

First I didn't like it much but as the Album progressed I started to like the sound. It has a crazy energy to it

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Mon May 27 2024
4

I'm not a fan of many 80s albums but this is something special and otherworldly. I love the angular rhythms and McKenzies voice. Strong.

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Thu Jun 06 2024
4

Really good! Nice gothy synthy stuff.

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Mon Jun 17 2024
4

Slap some black lipstick on these lads and this would be goth AF! And the theatrical, overwrought vocals would probably make more sense in a gothy context... Rather enjoyed this - I like my new wave brushing up against my post-punk, and my post-punk sprinkled with experimentation! Fave track - "No". Great tune!

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Mon Jun 17 2024
4

On first listen I wasn't really sure about this but second go through it all started to make sense. The instrumental opener doesn't really set the scene for what's to come but No is a cracker of a track and he cabaret keeps on coming. Fave: Club Country

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Tue Jun 25 2024
4

I was pleasantly surprised by this album by an artist that I didn’t think I had heard of. Could really hear the influence they had on The Divine Comedy - from the cover of Party Fears Two, to the burp at the beginning of a song. Bravo.

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Wed Jun 26 2024
4

Many moments of unique interest, but not for me.

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Fri Jul 05 2024
4

Ahh, torn on this one. It goes on too long. I’m surprised how experimental it is though. I was expecting a more poppy vibe. And I do like Billy Mackenzie’s voice. It seems to be divisive. His death is such a sad contrast to the glamorous pop star image. Oh go on then, have a 4. Probably should be a 3.5 though

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Mon Jul 08 2024
4

awesome, eerie new wave album way too Low rating here

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Tue May 16 2023
3

interesting/experimental 80s - took a minute to get into it but then started to really enjoy it

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Tue May 16 2023
3

This album is difficult to listen to with the proper mindset. At the time of release, this synth-pop/new wave/post-punk album was highly lauded and was seen as a record that pushed synth-pop forward. To my ears, the album sounds incredibly dated from the crooning falsetto vocals, the synth itself, and the punchy new wave bass provided by the Michael Dempsey who also played for the Cure. This album does have a darker edge to it taken straight from goth rock that I quite like. This album is just so of its time that it makes it hard for me to assess (though that's not necessarily a bad thing). I can't quite suss out if it's as great as some of its contemporaries.

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Tue May 16 2023
3

Heavy David Bowie influence on several songs. All around liked this album more than expected but in reality I will probably forget all about this album shortly after I submit this rating.

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Fri May 19 2023
3

Arrogance gave him up - Nice melody's but becomes repetitive and not a fan of the drumming No - nice use of instrumentation, track feels very dark and haunting, Robert Smith style vocals. Bap De La Bap - Really not a fan of this, vocals are annoying and music sounds like you're queuing for an Alton Towers ride Gloomy Sunday - lovely intro, feels like the smiths but more electronic, big fan of the vocals here both in terms of melody but unsure on the delivery. Nude Spoons - Another one with a good intro. Once again not a huge fan of the delivery on the vocals. This track has a relentless feel to it which I do like. Feels like the bass is too quiet in the mix towards the end. Skipping - Quite a fan of this track, vocal delivery much more to my taste. Baseline is lovely. It's better this way - Great baseline once again too quiet in the mix for me, love the guitar solo, nice tone there. The screechy vocals once again not for me. Party Fears Two - Love the keys in this. Vocals again... Club Country - Love the instrumental on this, by far the best so far, vocals annoying again. Outro has a great mix of a funky bass line with some nice dark effects in the background, however this does go on a bit. Nothinginsomethingparticular - Nice melody but not interesting enough to repeat itself over two minutes. Sounds like a video game theme 18 carret love affair - Really big fan of this track, despite the melody from nothinginsomethingparticular continuing into this song Love hangover - Has a very funky guitar riff, very danceable. Think this is my favourite track on the album and I would listen again. SUMMARY - Think this album is great in terms of production and instrumentation. Has a great goth and early post-punk sound. However, I think that the vocalist really stops many decent songs from being good or great songs.

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Mon May 22 2023
3

It's like a Scottish version of U2

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Mon May 22 2023
3

Worth another listen I reckon.

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Tue May 30 2023
3

Sulk is the second album by Scottish post-punk and pop band the Associates. It was a well produced art rock / synth pop album that blessed listeners' ears in 1982. Although this album was a critical and commercial breakthrough, the original duo in this group broke up four months after release. I loved this album's sound! The overproduced musical arrangements combined with the beautiful falsetto voice made for quite the head turner of an album. I can't believe the Associates changed up their roster after this album, because they were onto something. Great work!

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Sun Jun 11 2023
3

It’s something that I can imagine people would like, but I’m not one of them. There’s too much chaos, especially in the vocals. They singing is all over the place, lots of tremelo, pre-emo. The music is well done, with some cool blends and that classic 80s drum-beat. I can tell this pushed the genre into new directions, just well past my preferences (I imagine the couple from family vacation that hate the griswalds are avid fans of this music.)

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Sat Jun 17 2023
3

Rating: 6/10 Best songs: Party fears two

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Sun Jun 18 2023
3

3.3 - A “challenging” record without much payoff. It sounds like a combination of an Ariel Pink soundtrack for a haunted house, and B-sides from Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” era. Kind of a shame because they’re clearly a good band and Billy Mackenzie shows some impressive vocal chops. It just rarely comes together into a compelling sound. Standouts: “Club Country”, “18 Carat Love Affair”

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Fri Jun 30 2023
3

A little too much fiddling here, such was the thing in the early electro pop. The singer providing moments of joy but more often annoying. It does sound dated but when it hits the mark it is fun and stands up today.

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Fri Jun 30 2023
3

Moody moods. The bridge between David Bowie and the Cure/New Order. Sounds pretty dated and the gloom is real, but it warrants consideration.

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Tue Jul 04 2023
3

Pretty good. Reminds me of a little of David Bowie

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Mon Jul 17 2023
3

It was alright but there’s nothing notable about it

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Thu Jul 20 2023
3

Average album for me. Not the biggest fan of this type of 80s pop. If I could give 2.5 stars I would but I'll have to round up to 3

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Fri Jul 21 2023
3

Not quite sure what to make of this. Sounds like fairly typical early 80s alternative/new wave. Shades of Talking Heads mixed with a bunch of other stuff of that era, e.g. Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, etc. It was okay but I didn't love it. A bit too much of a cabaret type sound. 3 stars.

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Sat Jul 22 2023
3

On todays episode of why is this here

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Sun Jul 23 2023
3

An interesting mix of post-punk, synth pop, new wave and more. Some tracks are a few steps above the rest so the album isn't consistently "good" or "great" to warrant a higher rating despite the creativity at the time. Also the production quality hasn't aged so well. 3 star

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Mon Jul 24 2023
3

Going against the catchy synthpop hooks that their contemporaries aim for, the Associates are content with building a dark atmosphere that's more akin to post-punk of the day. While they provide an interesting overall sound, nothing on the album comes across as memorable or outstanding. Sulk is competent in what it does, but disappointing in what it doesn't.

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Mon Jul 24 2023
3

It's kind of messy and all over the place, but I liked the 80's melody. Though it does sound like he is trying too hard.

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Mon Jul 31 2023
3

Wow this was intense. Not my cup of tea but it wasn't bad.

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Mon Jul 31 2023
3

I feel like you might have to be very much in the mood for this level of extreme 80s-ness. I know this because the first part I listened to on an early run and it was just a bit much. It made me quite irritaavle, but then I listened to more another time and it didn't rile me and I quite enjoyed it. I have to say the singing style (did Bowie do this first I was wondering?) Did grate me a little bit but I know it is just part of it. The recognisable ones were fun I guess

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Sun Aug 06 2023
3

Opinió no popular, però m'enganxa més el seu debut, 'The Affectionate Punch', que aquest 'Sulk', suposadament obra mestra primigènia del synth pop i pont de luxe que va estableix l'enllaç entre el post punk/new wave tardà i el millor del treball que van fer els new romantics. No és mal disc, i el seu so és realment interessant, però no hi ha temes que arrosseguin l'àlbum cap a l'excel.lència. Ni tan sols el seu single principal, 'Party Fears Two', que és simplement un tema passable. 'Club Country' és millor, però res de l'altre món

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Fri Aug 18 2023
3

Sounds like a synth-Bowie early 80's when this album was released. You can also hear their influence on Bono and it's lasting impression with his music with U2. It was an okay listen, but doesn't interest me beyond a listen. It's funny how I had never heard this before.

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Mon Aug 21 2023
3

Not really my style and nothing stood out to me as especially great but it did leave the impression of a generally cohesive, good album.

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Fri Aug 25 2023
3

Distinctly joyously 80s, but quite fun.

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