“Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” by Soft Cell - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1981Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

Coming on the back of the summer's biggest hit single, the debut full-length from the duo arrived in November, 1981. Staring back at you 'neath a neon sign from a seedy Soho club and a mystery package wrapped in a brown paper bag were: Marc Almond (24, vocals) and David Ball (22, electronic and acoustic instruments). Their underground club smash “Memorabilia” had sown the seeds of potential, but they craved and needed a hit to satisfy both themselves and Phonogram Records. Their cover of “Tainted Love” (Gloria Jones, 1965) was inspired, re-imagining the northern soul scene in the new romantic era. Just as Phil Oakey would be with “Don't You Want Me”, Almond was flabbergasted when the song hit #1, re-positioning the duo as household names overnight. It would become the biggest selling single of the year in the UK, and would later spend almost the entirety of 1982 in the Billboard 200 stateside. As with many new romantics, Marc brought a punk sneer to the new electronic parties, declaring that Sioxsie Sioux had been a particular influence: “You can even hear that I’m trying to sing like her on some of those early Soft Cell songs; I didn’t want to sing properly, I wanted to sing in a punk way”. They worked brilliantly as a duo, Marc handling the kitchen-sink drama and Dave's wizardy casting spells which transfixed. “We wanted the album to be a peep-show of sounds, a glimpse into a seedy world, a soundtrack to a striptease clip joint” said Almond. This they managed to do, whilst reflecting on the ultimate emptiness of the young socialite who has too many parties and not enough pals.

This contradiction was laid out brilliantly on the album's second single, “Bedsitter”, a triumphant follow-up to their massive summer hit: “I think it's time to cook a meal, To fill the emptiness I feel, Spent my money going out, I've nothing in I'm left without, Clean my teeth and comb my hair, Look for something new to wear, Start the nightlife over again, Kid myself I'm having fun.” Contradictions are the play on the side one coupling of the sensitive “Youth” (“Don't hide the photos or turn off the lights, I'm quite sure we've both seen funnier sights”) with the seedy “Sex Dwarf” in which our man looks to lure disco dolly's to a life of vice: “On a long black leash I will parade you, Down the high streets you've got the attraction, You've got the pulling power, Walk my doggie, Walk my little sex dwarf”. The best is saved 'til last via “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”, although there is no happy ending: “Under the deep red light, I can see the make-up slidin' down, Well, hey little girl you will always make up, So take off that unbecoming frown, As for me, well, I'll find someone, Who's not goin' cheap in the sales, A nice little housewife, who'll give me a steady life, And not keep going off the rails”. Had he collected Jacques Brel or Scott Walker yet? I'd be surprised if he hadn't at least heard them, for his affecting croon is right up there with these all-time greats, as the end credits of the cabaret roll by in a blaze of glory, invoking goosebumps, teardrops and a warm round of applause from the balcony.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:12] 5.2.png Soft Cell - Frustration (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) New Wave
A2 [02:34] 7.9.png Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Ed Cobb) Pop
A3 [05:05] 6.1.png Soft Cell - Seedy Films (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) Cerebral Pop
A4 [03:15] 6.8.png Soft Cell - Youth (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) Electronica
A5 [05:15] 5.4.png Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) Electronica
B1 [03:35] 6.2.png Soft Cell - Entertain Me (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) Pop
B2 [04:05] 5.2.png Soft Cell - Chips On My Shoulder (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) New Wave
B3 [03:36] 8.4.png Soft Cell - Bedsitter (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) New Wave
B4 [03:37] 6.4.png Soft Cell - Secret Life (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) Cerebral Pop
B5 [05:24] 10.0.png Soft Cell - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (Marc Almond, Dave Ball) New Wave

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2020 All Rights Reserved