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Soft Cell - The Twelve Inch Singles (Mercury)

Soft Cell is the band that produced undoubtedly the most remembered track of the '80s. Currently undergoing a revival courtesy of Marilyn Manson, 'Tainted Love' is the eighties track that everyone knows. So, Soft Cell really need no introduction, but a triple CD of their ten eighties singles might. True, anyone with a bit of musical knowledge about '80s synthpop is likely to know 'Memorabilia', 'Bedsitter' or 'Say hello wave goodbye', but only the truly obsessive will know their b-sides or later singles. To a large degree, it's easy to see why, but this collection does throw up some morsels of interest.

Twelve inch singles were very much in their infancy in this period, but Soft Cell used the extra running time to expand upon the originals with a creativity that stands up today. Their early b-sides give an inkling that Dave Ball's imagination extended beyond the plink-plink keyboards of synthpop, something that was showcased in his groundbreaking work with Psychic TV.

But, beyond the early days on the first CD here, things become less interesting. Their two hit singles that followed their smash hit debut album, 'Touch' and 'What!' are highly quality synthpop, but nothing classic or truly memorable. Their declining chart fortunes after them is matched by a serious decline the quality of the music (or, more likely, caused by it). Marc Almond's over-confidence in his vocal abilities, something that came to a head with his awful solo album of Brel covers, led to increasingly awful sounding songs where his voice just couldn't cut it and became ever more mismatched with Dave Ball's experimentation.

Last on this compilation are a selection of remixes from '91, including some by Dave Ball's techno group, The Grid. Suffice it to say that early '90s remixes sound even more dated than the early '80s originals. As an historical document, this is invaluable, tracing the rise and fall of a seminal band and showing clearly the reasons why their sound has been so durable. Its appeal as a listening experience is less obvious as more than half of it's not really worth listening to, though the half that is, really is!

Donnacha DeLong

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