All-Time Albums: #90


SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

1 Frustration 4:12
Tainted Love 2:34 (UK single, #1)
3 Seedy Films 5:05
4 Youth 3:15
5 Sex Dwarf 5:15
6 Entertain Me 3:35
7 Chips On My Shoulder 4:05
Bedsitter 3:36 (UK single, #4)
9 Secret Life 3:37
10 Say Hello, Wave Goodbye 5:24 (UK single, #3)


Without Soft Cell, there surely would not have been Pet Shop Boys. But by the same token, without Sparks there surely would not have been Soft Cell. Look at Dave Ball’s pencil moustache, for one thing.

Of all the albums I’ve chosen to be featured in this list, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret gave me the biggest headache; I didn’t start buying albums until 1984, long after its time had come and gone, and I didn’t really begin collecting music from before that year until well into the 1990s. By which point, Polygram had reissued it on CD with a whopping 8 bonus tracks, including – very importantly – the non-album singles Memorabilia, Torch and What?, plus some other B-side wonders. So I have never really listened to the original album as it would have been in 1981, I associate the extra tracks with it as well.

Yes, it’s unfair but what’s a boy to do?

The trio of singles are almost without equal for that golden period of UK synthpop during 1981 and 1982. Say Hello Wave Goodbye (wonky vocals and all) pretty much ensures its place alone. It aims to capture a particular milieu (angst-ridden, seedy, enticing, a little bit dangerous) and nails it. No wonder the band began to “fall apart” shortly thereafter. In some ways, their work was done.

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