5 February 2014

Soft Cell - Non Stop Erotic Cabaret

I never thought I'd get round to reviewing this album. Nothing to do with any busy schedule I have but more to do with not being able to think of anything to say about it. So, I've given it a few listens and now I feel ready to type thoughts down.

Released in 1981 to mixed reviews, it marks the first album by Soft Cell, a synthpop duo comprising of vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball. It also came about the time that the genre known as 'synthpop' was starting to take off. Bouyed by the success of their cover of "Tainted Love" (A song originally by a soul singer called Gloria Jones - the person who was driving the car that Marc Bolan of T Rex died in), they recorded this album. As I said, reviews were initially mixed, but in the years since, reviews are a bit more favourable now. The album has also been released in various guises over the years. The one I'm listening to is the 1996 rerelease which has an extra 8 tracks which were various B-sides. I'll mention a couple of these, but main focus is on the first ten tracks as they're the ones off the original release.

Opening with "Frustration", it sounds very oddball. A jaunty synth-tune while Marc Almond goes off it over the top if it. It almost approaches avant-garde status as you could imagine some nutter doing this at an impromtu gig at a coffee shop open-mic night. Then we're onto the cover of "Tainted Love" - I'm not going to talk about this as much because we all know what it's like due to it having been a part of pop-culture for the last 33 years. Marilyn Manson covered it in 2001 and it was typical of the absinthe-drinking, not-as-clever-as-he-thinks-he-is oddball.

Things start getting interesting by track 3, "Seedy Films". A laid-back little ditty about, erm, seedy films and what people get up to in dark alleyways, it certainly matches the vibe that the album had set out to create, that of a clubbing scene where the only dancing going on is of the horizontal or knee-trembling variety. The front cover of the album certainly adds to it, with the brown envelope implying a package purchased from one of Soho's finest (Or even Sven's Bookshop in Newcastle!). Track 4, "Youth" is a more mature effort. A slow doomy thing, it's the second best song on the album. Only drawback is that Almond's vocals 'creak' a bit like he cannot hit the high notes so well, but overall the man is indeed a good vocalist. His solo stuff certainly rules, anyhow. Track 5 is "Sex Dwarf" - and, oh my God, it's fucking awesome! It's the sexy clubbing with added amphetamines! It sounds so utterly batshit insane! Nothing like a bit of techno to get a party going! Easily the best song on there.

Track 6 soon comes along and is a bit dramatic, shall we say. A solo intro with a crowd on backing vocals, before kicking off into a techno rhythm imploring to "Entertain Me" (The name of the song). Then we're off into the third best song on the album, "Chips On My Shoulder", great rhythms and harmonies as we're regalled a tale of whatever it is Mr Almond has chips on his shoulder about. So far, we've been treated to a musically great album. Put together very well, with no overproduction. Just a synthesizer and a drum machine. As the genre grew, it would incorporate more dramatic elements but there is no need for that here, everything is perfect as it is. Anyhow, next song...

"Bedsitter" has a twangy melody and something that sounds like a proto-wub in the background. Another tale of 'clubland' and it's pitfalls. Namely that even though you're the King of the clubbing scene, if you've nothing substantial to go home to, then it can be a very lonely experience indeed. Hence you go clubbing more frequently to ease the feeling of lonliness but it doesn't quite work. Oh dear.

"Secret Life" is a bit more jaunty, with a swagger behind it. I guess the Clubbing King has got stuff sorted? Not really, the lyrics deal with frustration at having to deal with frustration at life in general, particually at having to keep stuff secret. For some reason, the intro reminds of that for "Build Me Up (Buttercup)" which would hint at more pop influences. Last track, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is an almost perfect way to end the album. The audio equvalent of tidying up after the party. Some awesome lyrics ("I'll find someone who's not going cheap in the sales"). It gives the impression that our Clubbing King is going to make an effort in turning stuff around.

So, what do I think? It's a really good album. Musically fantastic with some great singing, it's certainly warranted it's place in history. It's also a bit different to what I normally listen to but it's good to vary it around from time to time. I'd recommend this album to anyone.

Top Track: Sex Dwarf.

9/10 - Almost perfect...almost.

This album is available on iTunes, Amazon (Click here) and Spotify (Click here).

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