Soft Cell
Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret


5.0
classic

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
March 6th, 2011 | 22 replies | 7,475 views


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the most unique acts in early 80s synth-pop, Soft Cell had a flair for creating sleazy, sinful slices of dark electronic music. If all you’ve heard is 'Tainted Love' then you’re really missing out.

Soft Cell has to be one of the most surprising chart successes in pop music. The British duo comprised of vocalist Marc Almond and multi-instrumentalist Dave Ball may have rocketed to number one in several countries with their unique cover of 'Tainted Love', but any estimations that aforementioned hit was all the sleazy synth boys had to offer, is undeniably wrong. Because 'Tainted Love' was so huge (and rightfully so, its one of the standout hit singles from the entire 80s) it unfortunately overshadowed their debut, and many missed the point of Soft Cell, presuming they were just another one hit wonder in the last great singles decade. But if said people were to listen to 'Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret', they’d be shocked in almost equal amounts of surprise and awe.

'Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret' at first sounds like an album to be played in dingy sex clubs, in topless bars - the perfect soundtrack to a midnight drive through a red light district. Dave Ball seemed to have a knack for creating sleazy, dirty sounding synth. It may sound a little crass on paper but it really has to be heard for its charm to seep in. Take 'Sex Dwarf' for example, it has filthy plunges of synth and so many layers of electronic sound effects that, even after several plays, listeners will still be hearing whip cracks and hilarious samples, they missed before. That’s exactly what its important to do with 'Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret': listen.

It would be crass and vulgar if it wasn’t self aware, but Almonds lyrics (each of which takes the form of a different character and tells a witty tale of urban debauchery) and Ball’s layered, dark synth and quirky sound effects are knowing of themselves. They revel in the boorishness, running wild with it to dramatic effect, undercutting any pretensions by self deprecation and self-awareness. 'Entertain Me' is a prime example - its lyrics describe failing to impress an audience ("Entertain me, I’m as blank as can be") matched to the sounds of a crowd chanting "off, off, off" resulting in a crystal-clear display of bitter humour and self-deprecation.

The album is unashamedly sleazy and that’s what makes it unique and charming; despite being a synth-pop album released in 1981 it still sounds distinctive. The opening track 'Frustration' sets the picture well, declaring that Soft Cell aren’t just simple, straight ahead synth poppers but rather, sinful dramatists. It begins with Almond screaming "fru…fru…fru…frustration" before Ball’s bizarre melody kicks in with a ticking, pulsing rhythm, ending in a chorus of guilty desires and confessions from Almond as he wails about wanting to "experiment with cocaine, LSD and set a bad, bad example".

The entire album carries on in a similar vein, each track dealing with a different character and indecent story married to suitably cheap and tacky synth from Ball, exemplified by tracks like 'Seedy Films' (about watching pornography in a theatre and "Getting to know" your neighbour). That’s what 'Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret' is all about - it’s a knowing, flamboyant display of sleaze, sin and indulgence, and genuinely doesn’t have single moment where a listener has a chance to drift off, whether or not he/she wants to. Whether you fall in love with the whole act or you’re just stunned by the bizarreness of it all, one thing’s for sure - you’ll be compelled and gripped right to the infectiously smutty end.



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user ratings (44)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
bloc
March 6th 2011



34649 Comments


Haha, was not expecting Soft Cell to be next!

Tainted Love is classic of course, but that's pretty much all I know from this act.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

You should give this album a try, its brilliant. Sex Dwarf is hilarious.

bloc
March 6th 2011



34649 Comments


Will do

Titan50
March 6th 2011



4588 Comments


Haha, wasn't expecting this. I am tempted to listen to this, Tainted Love is a great song

DonniSharK
March 6th 2011



466 Comments


I now feel compelled to hear this.

illmitch
March 6th 2011



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

pretty good album, i liked it back in my synthpop days. dunno if its a 5 though.

illmitch
March 6th 2011



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the original version of tainted love is the best one

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

For all those who are intrigued about this album, just give it a go.

illmitch, i gave it a 5 because i think its a really well formed album, it knows exactly what it is and what it wants to convey and it does so brilliantly. Also, despite being 30yrs old it still sounds distinctive and its one of the most unique albums in its genre.

Also, thanks to whoever gave a the pos, always nice to get after putting the effort in. I'm suprised no one else had reviewed this before me, shame people haven't been exposed.

foxblood
August 22nd 2011



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sex dwarf is the best thing ever. i couldn't believe how awesome this band actually is, not a one hit wonder at all. the whole album is made with a synth, mic, and drum machine. so awesome.
this was a pretty important and influential album.

LifeAsAChipmunk
August 13th 2012



4854 Comments


Tainted Love is amazing.

foxblood
January 20th 2013



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

soft cell are the best

Cygnatti
May 30th 2013



21349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Moar comments plz.

Digging: The Avalanches - Since I Left You

GiaNXGX
August 12th 2013



4867 Comments


vest alvum eber m8

Cygnatti
August 12th 2013



21349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Where did hour love goe?

Cygnatti
September 3rd 2013



21349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

sexy album.

Cygnatti
November 26th 2013



21349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I wish I could rate singles here T_T

Eloriaz
December 24th 2013



651 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Why is this so god damn FANTASTIC???

Digging: Actress - R.I.P

xfearbefore
February 15th 2014



1245 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I feel bad for the people who have only heard Tainted Love. There are so many amazing songs on this, in fact, not a bad track. Maybe the best synthpop album ever. Bedsitter is probably my favorite. So dark. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye is also ridiculously beautiful.

This deserves more attention.

Digging: Tiger Army - Tiger Army

Eloriaz
February 15th 2014



651 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I agree so much. I don't understand why this album flew under the radar. 'Tainted Love' is but a fraction of it. The production is still tasty, and the basslines are out of this world.

As for synthpop, yep, it's certainly up there with the best of the genre.

Green Baron
February 15th 2014



17572 Comments


Tainted Love is classic

Digging: Rise Against - The Black Market



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