Electro-pop survivor back in the limelight

Electro-pop survivor Marc Almond, a regular visitor here over the past decade or so, will be returning to Greece for a performance on Saturday at the capital’s Gagarin Club. The concert will feature his «Sin Songs – Torch and Romance,» a production that fared exceptionally well in London, where it was first presented in the summer of 2004. Not long after, the performer was sidelined by a serious motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his life. Almond spent most of last year recuperating, but is now back on his feet. Having gained instant worldwide fame some 25 years ago with his first outfit Soft Cell and its enormous hit version of «Tainted Love,» one of the biggest-selling hit singles of all time, Almond has managed to generate plenty of interest for his various projects ever since. Soft Cell, the synth-pop duo Almond formed in 1980 with fellow art student Dave Ball, gained fame for its sleazy electronic sound but lasted a short yet successful four years. The duo fell apart following internal wrangling, as was suggested by the title of the act’s second-to-last album, 1983’s «The Art of Falling Apart.» By the release of Soft Cell’s next effort, «This Last Night in Sodom,» a year later, Almond and Ball had parted ways. Almond took little time to underscore his intention of pressing on with a post-Soft Cell career. It wasn’t a solo one from the word go, but Almond gradually steered it in that direction. Immediately following Soft Cell’s debacle, Almond formed a short-lived electro-soul project called Marc and the Mambas. A loose gathering, Marc and the Mambas also included Matt Johnson, frontman of the Manchester dark-pop band The The, for a debut album featuring covers of songs by Lou Reed, Syd Barrett and Jacques Brel. The act broke up soon after, with the release of a second album, and Almond quickly returned as Marc Almond and the Willing Sinners. He finally embarked on a solo career in the late ’80s. Meanwhile, Ball, with whom Almond had originally merged to compose music for theatrical productions before the union acquired a further dimension as Soft Cell, had disappeared into years of inactivity but resurfaced with a techno outfit, The Grid. Almond and Ball reunited briefly for a Soft Cell comeback album, «Cruelty Without Beauty,» a well-received effort that was released in 2001. Collaborating with various other famed artists besides Johnson, including the late Nico, Nick Cave, Siouxsie Sioux, and Kelly Dayton of the Sneaker Pimps, Almond has put out worthy solo albums at a steady rate. However, it all came perilously close to ending late in 2004, when Almond’s motorcycle accident almost proved fatal. Almond spent a little over a fortnight in a coma with severe head injuries and needed to recover from hearing loss and speech disability. The enduring singer has begun work on a new album and recently returned to performing, beginning with Antony and the Johnsons. Mercury Prize-winning frontman Antony Hegerty took the opportunity to describe Almond as a major influence. More appearances followed, including at the Meltown Festival, curated by Patti Smith, and on Jools Holland’s «Later» show, one of the UK’s most influential TV music programs. Taking a break from a New York studio, where the performer is working on his new album with Hegerty on piano and co-vocals, Almond will be backed by musicians on electric and acoustic guitar, piano and accordion for his upcoming «Sin Songs – Torch And Romance» show here, a production where Almond’s melodic world merges with Jacques Brel, French song, cabaret and dance beats.