Singer Marc Almond and keyboardist David Ball performed a minor miracle in 1981, taking an obscure soul song and turning it into a most atypical synthesizer tune, coming up in the process with a worldwide smash hit that rode Billboard‘s chart for almost a year. “Tainted Love” (written by Ed Cobb but known in its version by Marc Bolan squeeze Gloria Jones) is as passionate and desperately sleazy as Kraftwerk is cool and clean. The Almond/Ball originals on Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret don’t always cut so deeply, but all offer nice, decadent fun. Among them: “Sex Dwarf,” highlighted by a nagging synthesizer riff, and “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye,” blatant though stirring sentimentality. Almond’s breathy, insinuating vocals and Ball’s surprisingly varied electronic and acoustic keyboards (kudos to producer Mike Thorne) never stand pat. The 2023 reissue, dubbed the Super Deluxe Edition, is a six-CD cornucopia that piles together 98 tracks, 40 of them previously unreleased. There are remixes, outtakes, radio appearances, more recent live performances and the entire album sans vocals.
Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing, half an hour (six tracks) of dance mixes, intends primarily to divert and manages to overcome its basic filler role. Highlights include a languid version of “Where Did Our Love Go?” and the unforgettably neurotic “Insecure … Me?”
It’s too bad Almond and Ball didn’t part ways before descending into the embarrassing self-parody of The Art of Falling Apart. With Ball’s keyboards growing progressively cooler, Almond tries ever more desperately to invoke a sleazy atmosphere and just ends up sounding silly. The nadir — indeed, the worst Soft Cell effort of all time — is the pitiful ten-minute Jimi Hendrix medley of “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” that comes on a bonus 12-inch 45. It’s like a five-year-old trying to read Shakespeare. Soul Inside is a collection of odds and ends, including a version of “You Only Live Twice (007 Theme),” two remixes and a live radio session. This Last Night in Sodom contains further fruitless flailing, as titles like “The Best Way to Kill” and “Mr. Self Destruct” attest.
After many years apart (during which Almond built a solid solo career), Soft Cell reformed in 2001 for a tour and an album, but then parted company again.