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Soft Cell's difficult second album...,
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This review is from: The Art Of Falling Apart (Audio CD)
Soft Cell, as Marc Almond's classic memoir 'Tainted Life' demonstrates, really went through the rock'n'roll cliches - following their classic debut 'Non Stop Erotic Cabaret' they voyaged to New York and recorded the ecstasy influenced 'Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing' (preceding New Order's work in that territory)and the classic single 'Torch.' Almond appeared to be having problems with being a pop-star, something underlined by the patchy cover of 'What?' and his darker work with Marc and the Mambas (1982's 'Untitled'). 'The Art of Falling Apart' (whose title has been borrowed for a novel...) is probably the definitive Cell album - I think it's a better record than 'Cabaret' and it's less brutal than the anti-Cell LP 'This Last Night...in Sodom.' The classic Almond/Ball sounds and themes are here - 'Forever the Same' advancing on 'Frustration' and 'Chips on My Shoulder' and predicting the territory explored by Flowered Up ('Weekender'), The Streets and much Britpop. Why wasn't it a single? The two singles were fantastic - 'Where the Heart Is' like a Balearic-Smiths, while 'Numbers' (whose title stems from John Rechy's novel of the same name) is like a squelchy synth take on Lou Reed, the "body one, body two..." theme taking on a different hue in the post HIV-world (kind of reminds me of elements of 'The Line of Beauty' too).
'Heat' shows the darker side of the Cell, the lyrics seem very Tennesse Williams (I picked that up from that nice Soft Cell book I've mislaid!) while the music is not far from the second Suicide album. 'Kitchen Sink Drama' is kind of ironic and taps into the themes of suburbia Almond and Ball had explored previously. The decadent world they were descending into is beginning to over-take (this would dominate '...Sodom' and both Mambas' records), 'Baby Doll' is an epic gothic-dirge that set the tone Depeche Mode would imitate and conquer the world with. It focuses on an ageing stripper at the kind of clubs Almond was apparently attending - it strikes me that the Cell were matching their influence Suicide here (...it's also not far from another primary influence of the Cell, Throbbing Gristle).
The title track is suitably manic, but still a gorgeous pop song while 'Loving You, Hating Me' feels lyrically similar to Morrissey, again predicts Depeche Mode and was a song to match such classics as 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' and 'Torch.' The bonus tracks are generally worthy additions - 'It's a Mug's Game' is hilarious (the anti-'Deep Purple in Rock' bit particularly) while 'Barriers' (the flip-side of 'Numbers') deserved to be on the album proper (nice to see the reformed Cell play it a few years ago). The real highlight here is 'Martin', a dark epic whose lyrics and title come from George Romero's cult vampire movie - Marilyn Manson certainly heard this one! The only dud is the Hendrix Medley, which goes on far too long - though I can see they were trying to do what Daniel Miller had done on Silicon Teens' classic album 'Music for Parties' (electronic versions of rock'n'roll standards). 'The Art of Falling Apart' is a great Soft Cell record and an album that feels a bit overlooked and underappreciated. I think it's up there with such early 80s classics as 'Penthouse & Pavement', 'Dare!', 'Dreams Less Sweet', 'The Affectionate Punch', 'The Lexicon of Love', 'Soul Mining', 'North of a Miracle', 'Dazzleships' & 'Power, Corruption & Lies'.