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Cruelty Without Beauty

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Album Review

Soft Cell's fourth studio album was released a full 18 years after the duo's third, This Last Night in Sodom (1984). During those 18 years, both Marc Almond and Dave Ball pursued solo careers to huge success, and occasionally worked together on albums (Marc Almond's wonderful 1990 album, Enchanted) and remix singles. But here, the two are together in full force. Almond's lyrics are among the best he has ever written, especially on the tragic "Whatever It Takes," which seems to be the sequel to their debut single, "Fun City," revisiting the same character 25 years later. It all comes together with brilliant writing and Ball's atmospheric and swelling arrangement of the eerie music. And the music has grown; sure, it sounds like an updated Soft Cell, but the '80s are nowhere in sight. Wisely, this is not a "retro" album with re-recordings of the duo's big hits, but rather a more mature Soft Cell. Overall, the album has a dark, semi-political tone reflecting the late '90s and early '00s. While it is dark, it is also captivating and accessible. Almond's voice is strong and emotive, living and breathing his stories and observations. Autobiographical? Perhaps, but in the end it does not matter. The stories are vivid, and the music incredible. The only real shame is that Almond and Ball were not creating music for 18 years, because this album shows the talent and ability of these two writers, and how the times have adapted to them.

Customer Reviews


Brill spiky electro pop...


Formed: 1980 in Leeds, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '00s, '10s

Art students Marc Almond and Dave Ball formed Soft Cell, a synth pop duo famed for its uniquely sleazy electronic sound, in Leeds, England in 1980. Originally, vocalist Almond and synth player Ball teamed to compose music for theatrical productions, and as Soft Cell, their live performances continued to draw heavily on the pair's background in drama and the visual arts. A self-financed EP titled Mutant Moments brought the duo to the attention of Some Bizzare label head Stevo, who enlisted Daniel...
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