August 30, 2005
Some Bizzare

Album Review

Soft Cell's first demo tapes have frequently been bootlegged, most famously as Science Fiction Stories. They had never seen more than the most cursory commercial release, however -- four songs spread across a rare EP and a mid-'80s flexidisc. Yet they are, in many ways, the purest of all the band's recordings -- the sound of two art students who want to make music and couldn't give a hoot for commercial considerations. Certainly there's no "Tainted Love" or "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" in sight, as Marc Almond and Dave Ball take as their starting point a clash between the first Suicide album and the Normal's "Warm Leatherette," and just get weirder from there. "Potential," the opening cut, is so heavily in thrall to that archetype that it's easy to think you've put on the wrong record -- indeed, when the group self-released its first EP, drawing from this same stockpile of songs, that was one of the most common complaints. But dig deeper and a firm identity does begin to take shape -- arguably, "L.O.V.E. Feelings" remained the template for the duo's balladic tendencies until their second album, at least, while future B-sides "Fun City" and "Facility Girls" both draw from the same D.I.Y. document as the best of this set. Occasionally, the relentless primitivism of the electronics does get a little wearing; there was only so much you could do with the machines on the market at the time, and none of it sounds especially impressive today. But that's the fate of almost all the artists who were dancing on the frontiers of musical technology in the 1980s, including most of those who were actually releasing records then (Gary Numan and Ultravox among them). At the time, and for all their obvious precedents, Soft Cell were so far out on the edge that the odd false step isn't simply forgivable, it was unavoidable. Besides, they quickly make amends by delivering something so absolutely outrageous (Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," set to a soundtrack of very angry bees) that it's impossible to stop listening. Bedsit Tapes is not the Soft Cell collection that the casual listener has been waiting for. But anyone seeking a snapshot of a band on the brink of early-'80s greatness, but with none of the baggage that fame would demand, will fall in love with the group all over again.
Dave Thompson, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Potential
  2. L.O.V.E. Feeling
  3. Metro Mr X
  4. Bleak Is My Favourite Cliche
  5. Occupational Hazard
  6. Mix
  7. Factory Fun
  8. Science Fiction Stories
  9. Purely Functional
  10. A Cut Above the Rest
  11. Paranoid
  12. Excretory Eat Anorexia Nervosa
  13. Cleansing Fanatic
  14. Walking Make Up Counter
  15. Pyrex My Cuisine
  16. Tupperware Party