LONDON (AP) – In fact, soft cells were a thing of the past. Four years ago, the duo had a farewell party in London, for which a recording was released as “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – One Night, One Final Time”.
But in the fall of 2021, Marc Almond and Dave Paul returned to the stage together at several concerts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their debut album “Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” — and they even had new songs on the show. They now appear on Happiness Not Included, the first soft-cell album in 20 years.
“Sci-Fi for the Twenty-first Century,” is how keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist (63) previously summarized the new disc. Almond sings about the supposed wonderful future in the opening “Happy Happy”. “No one cries, we don’t have any problems.” The singer, whose solo albums tend to be more romantic, always saves his sarcasm for his soft-celled lyrics.
Health setbacks, including a motorcycle accident many years ago and most recently severe COVID-19, have not affected the now 64-year-old’s unique voice. Almonds are more theatrical and expressive than ever.
Difficult present and shattered dreams
The satirical song “Heart Like Chernobyl” is also great, whose style is reminiscent of the style of the single “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”. The album cover, repaired long before the war in Ukraine, Chernobyl, shows more accurately: the ferris wheel in the abandoned amusement park in Pripyat, which was about to open when the reactor accident took place in 1986 – a successful metaphor.
“Happiness Unlisted” is about the shattered dreams of a beautiful future and the frustration of an unexpectedly difficult present. However, there are also positive nuances.
And when Almond and Ball shoot the Route 8 “Nostalgia Machine”, it’s not without irony. “Wear it, turn it on,” Almond sings, who knows, of course, that soft cells themselves walk a fine line between nostalgia and modernity. The fact that the classic synth pop sound is experiencing a renaissance today thanks to young music stars like Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Miley Cyrus definitely benefits Brits.
Sometimes misunderstood as a successful wonder, the duo who met in Leeds in 1978 set the style in their brief creative phase. After an EP and four studio albums, Almond and Ball split in 1984 and didn’t get back together until 2000. However, she is considered an important influence on artists as diverse as the Pet Shop Boys or Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails.
For the first time in their career, Soft Cell recorded a duet with the same Pet Shop Boys. Almond sings “Purple Zone” with Neil Tennant, while Ball and Chris Lowe provide helpful accompaniment. The score combines the qualities of both bands and is perhaps the most attractive celibate in years for all involved. Also on the album is a slimmer and slimmer version without Pet Shop Boys.
On the tour, fans were able to hear five of the new songs at London’s famous Hammersmith Apollo Concert Hall, among other venues. Soft Cell is justified in handling it with confidence. The songs fit perfectly on the slate of ’80s classics like “Torch,” “Kitchen Sink Drama,” or later soft-celled gems like “Monoculture.” Almonds and Ball did a little genius with “Happiness Not Involved” – it’s as good and convenient as ever.