CULTURE

Old ‘unfinished story’ to hit Greece for three nights

Considering the relative brevity of their career’s timespan and its troubled demise, hinted at on 1983’s «The Art of Falling Apart,» an album released toward the band’s impending end, Soft Cell might not have seemed the most probable candidate for reunion and re-entry into the current revival circuit. But a little under two years ago, a full 17 years after Soft Cell’s breakup, the electro-pop duo decided to reunite, noting that they felt there was enough chemistry and creativity still worth exploring. After a series of performances, the duo, who pass through Greece for three shows this week, made their comeback complete by releasing a well-received new album late last year, «Cruelty Without Beauty.» Inevitably, Soft Cell has had to do battle against the media’s fixation on categorizing this duo as a strictly ’80s act. At the time of the new album’s release, for example, many TV shows in the UK expressed conditional interest in Soft Cell appearances, demanding that the act perform its old signature hit «Tainted Love» – or else stay well away. The band refused and subsequently missed out on valuable promotion following its lengthy absence. Despite the lack of overall media support, the new album has managed to generate favorable reviews, while a single lifted from it, «The Night,» pierced the UK’s Top 40 early this month. Beneath the surface, the synth-pop duo, Marc Almond and Dave Ball, had apparently remained close over the years, in spite of their diverging solo careers since 1984. Following their initial split, Almond went on to explore dark-toned Hispanic decadence and epic balladeering, while Ball, after several years of inactivity, resurfaced as one half of techno act the Grid. Throughout the years, the two have often converged. Ball offered some low-key production support for some of Almond’s solo work, while the two also collaborated on various remixes of «Tainted Love,» which has now grown out of the «’80s synth-pop» scene to become a crossover hit for younger audiences. Almond and Ball, who met as art students, joined forces in Leeds, central England in 1980. The two originally teamed up to compose music for theatrical productions. As Soft Cell, their live performances continued to draw heavily on the pair’s background in drama and the visual arts. A self-financed EP, «Mutant Moments,» brought the duo to the attention of a small label, which released the act’s underground hit single «Memorabilia.» But it was the next effort, 1981’s «Tainted Love,» that brought the duo to the international forefront. The song, originally a cover which had already become a cult favorite thanks to an earlier soul rendition by Gloria Jones, was reinvented as an electro-pop number. It became the year’s best-selling British single, as well as a major hit abroad. Equally successful was the group’s debut LP «Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.» Though it raked in more success for Soft Cell, 1983’s follow-up album «The Art of Falling Apart» did suggest that internal problems were jeopardizing the band’s future. Prior to Soft Cell’s next release, «This Last Night in Sodom,» a year later, the duo had indeed already fallen apart. Almond, however, did not begin pursuing a solo career until the late 1980s. He first formed an electro-soul band, Marc and the Mambas, and then another outfit, Marc Almond and the Willing Sinners. Ball remained inactive for several years before resurfacing with the Grid. Commenting on Soft Cell’s reunion shortly after the decision was made, Almond commented: «I always felt that Soft Cell ended before our time due to circumstances beyond our control and I always knew it was an unfinished story. Our split was never acrimonious.» Saturday (22/2) and Sunday (23/2), Rodon Club, 24 Marnis, Athens, tel 210.523.7418; Monday (24/2), Ydrogeios Club, 33 26th Octovriou, Sfageia, Thessaloniki, tel 2310.516.515.