Friday, October 11, 2002

Soft Cell - Cruelty Without Beauty

After releasing Last Night In Sodom in 1984, Soft Cell's Marc Almond and David Ball went in different directions. Almond had success with his solo career and brought his flare for the theatrical performances on tour with him. Ball went on to do a lot of writing, remix and production work along with a few 'one-off' projects. By 1990 he had joined up with Richard Norris as the ambient/techno/dance duo The Grid until 1996. After an 18 year break, a reunited Soft Cell return with Cruelty Without Beauty.

When I listen to a comeback album, I am judgemental. I think about what the artist last sounded like and what people remember them sounding like. On Cruelty Without Beauty, Soft Cell kick things into gear with "Darker Times." Darkness and seediness aren't new to the band that brought us "Sex Dwarf" but it seems to have entirely infected songs like the sordid "Caligula Syndrome," the humor-tinged ballad "Last Chance" and even the sleazy "Desperate." This isn't a bad thing. It seems to be balanced by the dance romp "Sensation Nation" (I mean, come on... they even mention happy shiny people) and the closing track "On An Up." As strong a song as "Monoculture" is... the deep and beautiful dance track "All Out Of Love" (no, it's not an Air Supply cover) would be my pick as first single. "The Night" brilliantly takes one eerie (almost Phantom Of The Opera-esque) keyboard line and converts it to an aggressive dance track. Although I'm still trying to understand the lyrical complexities, "Together Alone" is a song that I still find myself singing along to anyhow.

I recall reading about a new sugar substitute is being worked on that is 1000 times sweeter with no calories. For some reason, distance and time not only concentrated Almond and Ball's talents but when returning... but made them (if possible) even more Soft Cell. If you are a fan, you should have slept in front of the store to buy this disc when it came out. This isn't the album you waited 18 years for... it's better.