Like a short, tattooed phoenix, Marc Almond has risen from the ashes of two decades spent drinking, drugging and duetting to look and sound almost exactly as he did in 1981. Soft Cell -“ for those who missed the crucial early days of electro-pop -“ were much, much more than the cover version of Tainted Love which made them forever famous. They’ve been credited with influencing bands from Pet Shop Boys to Fisherspooner and were the first dance band to release an entire record of remixes. Band members Almond and Dave Ball have spent their 18-year Soft Cell hiatus doing wildly different stuff which all seems to disappear within seconds of pressing play on this new release. That’s because Cruelty Without Beauty could easily have come out in the early 80s. And just as Soft Cell’s debut Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret -“ with all of its dirty-sex and lonely lyrics -“ sounds kind of fresh almost two dozen years after its release, so does this. Welcome back, boys.

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