Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Peep Show

When it comes to electronic pop music, the darker the better I say.  Nothing goes together better with a sparkly synth line and cheerful bleeps than an unhappy protagonist with a tragic love life (see Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys).  Soft Cell's Marc Almond and Dave Ball became masters of this art with their debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, a copy of which I got for £2 at a recent car boot sale:

Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

The songs are firmly set in London's early 80s night scene, with a strong sexual theme taking in clubbing, drugs, seedy porn cinemas, sex shops and all manner of dubious relationships and encounters.  In a nutshell: SLEAZE.

The opening track "Frustration" tells of a character desperate to escape an unfulfilling "ordinary" existence, Marc wailing, "I work for a firm, but I want to burn it down" in the manner of a petulant teen.  From here, each tale (the same protagonist or all different people? - hard to tell) takes place in the seedy, bitchy and loveless world painted by Marc's drama-queen vocals and Dave's suitably cheap and often jarring synth sounds.

Back cover

Their cover of Gloria Jones' Tainted love was of course their biggest hit.  Another single from the album was Bedsitter, which describes the loneliness, friendlesness and ultimate emptiness of a life spent nightclubbing and daysleeping.

This theme of empty encounters continues in "Seedy Films" with it's story of strangers getting to know one another in porn cinemas.  "Entertain Me" rants about an unimpressed and ungrateful audience; "Entertain me, I'm as blank as can be" then segueys beautifully into self-pity anthem "Chips On My Shoulder" which has one of the best bleepy, skittering synth lines ever running through it.

The multitude of (sleazy) sound effects add an extra dimension to the music, sometimes with comic effect (Sex Dwarf).  The climax of the the album comes (steady now) with the gloriously heartbroken "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye", a towering work of bitterness and melodrama in which our cuckolded hero find himself sick of this hedonistic lifestyle and vowing to "find someone....a nice little housewife, who'll give me a steady life, and won't keep going off the rails".  Back to the "ordinary" life at the album's beginning perhaps? Well, why not turn the record over and start again?  It's a fabulous ride.

Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret reached no.5 in the UK, no.22 in the US and no.2 in Canada.

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