Although the sleeve photos fittingly depict Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine immersed in a blue pool of seemingly chilly water, no set of images could bring the sound of the 1981 Situation Two singles collected on Fourth Drawer Down into full realization. Those who are familiar with Associates know this because of Mackenzie's operatically soulful voice, Rankine's wildly experimental production, and, when used, his atonal utilitarian guitar playing that seems like it's playing the multi-instrumentalist more than he's playing it. Just as there are Smiths fans who listen intently to Johnny Marr's guitar playing and attempt to block out Morrissey's flamboyance, there surely are numerous beings who tune out Mackenzie's crooning to hone in on Rankine's actions. Those who can appreciate both are in for a real feast, and those who prefer one over the other still have much to sink their teeth into. Cloistered noise fests like the aggressively doomy "Kitchen Person" still rattle the system as well as the best Siouxsie and the Banshees or Cure from the same era. "White Car in Germany," "A Girl Named Property," and "Q Quarters" glean from the three late-'70s records David Bowie made with Brian Eno, adding further dementia and corrosion like a torturer would dash salt on an open wound. To wit, this still sounds great front to back; the ballsiness in juxtaposing the A-sides and B-sides demonstrates their depth. The U.K. wing of V2 thankfully made Fourth Drawer Down part of their 2000 reissue campaign, improving the sound and adding five extras, including other B-sides and unreleased tracks from the era. The plodding Talking Heads sound-alike "Fearless" and decent "Point Si" are unearthed with good reason, and the charging murk of "Straw Towels" is almost as excellent as "The Associate." The programmed, insect-like percussive devices that provide anchor for the instrumental "Kissed" seem to predate the minimal techno acts on the Chain Reaction label by 15 years. As with the update of Sulk released the same year, Mackenzie biographer Tom Doyle provides excellent liner notes that fill the reader in on the duo's mystique.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman