The Associates Popera The Singles Collection
Get It At Discogs
While it would be more accurate to call it "The '80s Singles Collection," given the continuing Associates and Billy Mackenzie story through much of the '90s, Popera does contain the major hits of the band's curious and wonderful career, along with many should-have-been chart toppers and some fine early obscurities. The result is the best single disc to start with for newcomers, though more hardcore fans will likely miss many of the fascinating tangents and album tracks that could not be included. That minor gripe aside, though, Popera lives up to its punnish name in spades. The first four tracks are unsurprisingly the big early-'80s U.K. hits, as much controversial landmarks on the charts and via live TV performances as Soft Cell's similarly genre-busting smashes. "Partyfearstwo," elegant, romantic, and the biggest single of them all, "Club Country" and its barbed nightlife paranoia, the sparkling "18 Carat Love Affair," and the remake of Diana Ross' disco hit "Love Hangover" each burst forth with a unique energy and life. The tracks that follow never achieved those chart heights but came close at points, while artistically each was its own lovely universe, ranging from the cabaret morning blues of "Breakfast" and the sweet "Take Me to the Girl" to the giddy "Waiting for the Love Boat," included in two versions. The remake of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" is a touch perfunctory, but Mackenzie's swooning vocals as always save the day. Oddly, the earliest songs appear at the end, five independently released singles that serve to underscore the Associates' uniqueness in post-punk days, scratchy and dark guitar slamming up against bizarre melodies and keyboards. Through it all and all the lineup changes, Mackenzie's soaring, theatrical voice rings out like the unique gift it was, one of the most underrated instruments in modern pop of any stripe.