Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Down in your alleys seems that anything goes


Was there ever a seamier, seedier, more decadent and degenerate chart topping group than Soft Cell?

Not content with disgusting the moral majority with their uncompromising campness and sexualisation of dwarves, these two Northern sleazehounds had the gall to be extremely popular, albeit for a relatively short period of time. Certainly, I liked them probably more than any other band in 1981, albeit in a quiet, confused, slightly sheepish way, wary of some of their themes and of being kicked to death by my schoolmates.

Their debut LP ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a masterpiece of squalor and fantastic pop tunes. Its themes are sex, smut, suburbia, depression, frustration, rage, drugs, aging, blackmail, ennui, broken hearts and dirty secrets. In fact, everything has a patina of dirt, but it is the dirt of perversion, poppers and porn, not the society approved dirty of bums, boobs and Benny Hill. It’s a fantastic listen, and should be played loudly after hours in every sleazy club, bar and clip joint around the world for eternity: it’s music to do wretched things to – to drink too much, to take too many drugs, to hustle and be hustled, to end up in an back alley in a fight, a fuck or a coma, or all three.

The follow up ‘Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing’ was a mini LP released to capitalise on the enormous (number one in 17 countries) success of ‘Tainted Love’, but is a remarkable mix of knowing uber pop, futuristic electronic soul covers and pulsing New York mutant disco, created in a climate of Ecstasy and excess, and about five years ahead of its time.

Subsequent LP’s (they only made another two in their original incarnation) failed to recapture the odd exhilaration of their early dark pop, and they settled into a knowing mix of high camp and low rent electronic melodrama. At their peak, however, they were one of the most interesting and most unsavoury pop groups this country has ever produced, as evidenced here on ‘Seedy Films’ and 'Secret Life' from the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ LP.

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