Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Almond's Joy: Marc Almond Is Thrilled That Soft Cell's First New Album in over 18 Years Is No Exercise in Nostalgia. (Music)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Almond's Joy: Marc Almond Is Thrilled That Soft Cell's First New Album in over 18 Years Is No Exercise in Nostalgia. (Music)

Article excerpt

Marc Almond blushes slightly when he thinks back three years to the first time he phoned former Soft Cell partner Dave Ball after roughly 15 years of musical estrangement. "I was quite nervous, actually," he says, stuffing. "It's hard to say why, but it felt like the right time for us to reconnect on a musical level. We'd always remained connected in some fashion, but music was no longer part of the equation--until that moment. It's silly, but I remember my palms getting a bit sweaty as I waited for him to pick up the phone. I didn't know what to expect from him when I suggested that we get together to write a few songs."

Besides a resounding yes from Ball, what Almond happily discovered was that the chemistry that made Soft Cell a compelling entity during the '80s British synth-pop era with hits like "Tainted Love" remained strong. "It was like we hadn't missed a step after so many years," he says. Still, the two did not initially plan to publicly reconvene as Soft Cell. "Our first intention was to find an artist to produce these songs for," he says, noting that they spent the following three years gradually building a new cache of tunes. "Then we briefly considered recording under a different name. We were just so reticent about the whole `Soft Cell reunion' concept. We didn't want to be viewed as one of those tired old bands who were whoring out their past for some fast cash."

Then, last summer, an opportunity to test the waters arose. "We were offered a gig in London. A nice big club, great lights, elaborate video," Almond says. "We thought we'd gauge the reaction. If the response was bad, we'd call it a one-off and move on." But the audience feedback was downright explosive. "It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time," the singer recalls. "It was like we'd started a fire that would not be put out. From that point there was no turning back. We were Soft Cell again."

It didn't take long for the two to shape the material they'd been fiddling with into Cruelty Without Beauty, a sterling collection that doesn't strive to pick up where the act left off as much as it aims to present them as the well-weathered men they've become. The best example of their maturity is the contemplative "Whatever It Takes," which Almond describes as being "about being middle-aged and searching for where you fit in this modern world. …

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