Back in the days when everything wasn’t available instantly, my friends and I would share our music. If you made a new friend you usually discovered a new band.
I knew Soft Cell from their run of singles in 81-84 and always liked them.
In the summer of 84 through the enthusiasm of a friend who held much more than my casual admiration for them, I had their entire catalogue at my disposal.
It was a rich listening experience, a gritty gaudy pop arty tarty steampipe synthesized jangly gothic comic freakout.
Marc Almond sounded compulsive, intense, constantly on the brink of breakdown/insanity – his hilarious half improvised song poems soundtracked by Dave Ball’s thumping crisp arsenal of machines invented in the 70s.
So much of it resonated, the melancholic manic absurdity of his reflections on youth and modern society.
I was particularly fond of Where The Heart Is and its b side It’s a mug’s game and Soul Inside also was a great late single of theirs.
Album wise though, their debut takes some beating. It has an almost clinical everlasting freshness and bounce to it.
The sleeve evoked New York, after dark, make up, Soho, drugs, loud clubs, twilight. The songs relived suburban boredom, secrecy, underground hedonism and heartbreak.
Marc’s sexuality didn’t resonate with me at all. I liked his look esp the Spanish goth bit and the bangles but it was the 90s before it clicked that he was gay which seems shortsighted now but I really was quite literal with my interpretations of his lyrics/female backing vocalists. It made sense that he was gay but from my point of view neither here nor there.
I remember listening to it on a Walkman in 1984 wandering near square concrete buildings and again in a park in London in 1988 feeling nostalgic for 1984/1981 huhhh - at 17??.
After this album they were determined to have a dense sound, imprint more of themselves onto it - to dirty it up maybe to get away from the stark crisp brilliance of their debut
what they said in 1981:
“Soft Cell offer up a glibly conceived ride through a funhouse of fetish and kink” - New York Rocker
“some of the most dispassionate songs since Transformer, some of the cruelest criticisms since vintage Zappa, and some of the most pathetic posturing since Queen. Pop at its most potent. Pop at its most pointless” Melody Maker
“Soft Cell have provided the reason for shouting eureka!, whether in the bath or not” – Sounds