ASSOCIATES: THE GLAMOUR CHASE (1988)
1) Reach The Top; 2) Heart Of Glass; 3) Terrorbeat; 4) Set Me Up; 5) Country Boy; 6) Because You Love; 7) The Rhythm Divine; 8) Snowball; 9) You'd Be The One; 10) Empires Of Your Heart; 11) In Windows All; 12) Heaven's Blue; 13) Take Me To The Girl.
Even the record company failed to find enough trust in this album: upon completion, it was rejected by the label and remained unreleased until 2003, when it was finally given the green light during a general campaign to remaster and re-release the entire Associates catalog. The only difference is that the label did not see the album as «commercial»; me, I just don't see it as «interesting» or «inspired». Or could that be the same thing? Sometimes, at least?..
It is odd, because some of the ingredients are still there. Mackenzie still got his voice, his personal problems and sentiments, and some desire to experiment. The whole thing is not «just» another synth-pop crapfest. But when your work happens to be within the synth-pop idiom, tremendously strong vitaminization is required to make stuff work. Perhaps still had plenty of exciting ingredients. The Glamour Chase has next to none.
ʽReach The Topʼ, for instance, is the worst start-off number in Associates history so far: other than the chorus vocals, it has nothing even vaguely reminiscent of a hook, and even the vocals are delivered in a flat, lifeless way, without making use of Mackenzie's impressive potential. Basically, it is just a song that could have been done by any generic act of the era — possibly an attempt on Billie's part to really go «commercial» and give the club kids a fresh butt-wiggler. The shame, the awful shame.
Likewise, what was the point of covering Blondie's ʽHeart Of Glassʼ? It's not just that the original already was pure disco perfection; it's that the song cannot possibly benefit from a Mackenzie touch, unlike, say, ʽLove Hangoverʼ — its superficially happy sarcasm cannot be re-molded into an Associates-type pattern, and it isn't. It's just a stupid, overlong, completely unnecessary cover, probably feeding off the assumption that people may need to be reminded of how cool it was to dance to disco-Blondie in a past era. A tenth anniversary tribute to the song or something.
The only tunes here that are at least marginally interesting are those that try to cross synth-pop with older genres. ʽCountry Boyʼ turns the chorus into a «traditional» crooner-fest; and ʽSnowballʼ dives into cabaret territory (a thing that Robert Smith, however, had already done much better with ʽLovecatsʼ). But even these little tactical victories are nullified when seven-minute long monsters like ʽIn Windows Allʼ come along and bore you with slow, draggy, pompous synthesizer minimalism — few things are more evil than a solemn synth-pop epic devoid of mind-blowing chord sequences to justify the size.
In the end, all that remains is just a small bunch of cherries — a cool violin twist here, a juicy bass pluck there, and some vocal parts that will be definitely appreciated by Billy fans (ʽThe Rhythm Divineʼ is fairly soulful — if only the music were in the least bit interesting as well). In general, though, the well is running dry; had the album remained in the vaults forever, the world would hardly have missed a chance to become a better place than it already is. Thumbs down, although, if Billy Mackenzie is your soul brother, you will probably still want to scrape some soul off the bottom of this barrel as well.