By: Erik Swift
The Eighties have come back in a big way lately – a reformed Duran Duran is readying their first album in more than two decades and “Bands Reunited” is VH1’s best series since “Behind The Music.” “Everything that’s old is new again” sings Soft Cell vocalist Marc Almond during “Monoculture,” the second song heard during the ninety-minute concert DVD “Live In Milan.” That lyric symbolizes not only retro Eighties nostalgia of late but the duo’s years apart, which ended with a 2002 tour chronicled on the “Live” CD and this companion DVD. Soft Cell’s tour film knocks down the concept that these guys only did a decent version of “Tainted Love,” and reaffirms them as trailblazers for artists like the Pet Shop Boys.
Almond and instrumental guru Dave Ball are not just a keyboardist and singer. The pair still uses a synthesizer core to get nasty, as the opening notes of their jaded, dark first hit single “Memorabilia” prove. Yet, the pair smoothly blow through 17 songs, utilizing everything from mini moogs and guitars to theramins while covering material from their three albums and recent hits compilation. The band’s humor never dissipates during their Italian stop chronicled on this DVD, as Almond always seems to be laughing at one thing or another (“Out in clubland, having fun, now I’m hiding from the sun” says the noticeably pale singer during ‘Bedsitter’).
Newer tracks like “Somebody, Somewhere, Sometime” easily deserve to be pumping on any club’s dance floor, but Soft Cell’s signature song is the one that gets everyone going. “Tainted Love” is stretched into a ten-minute performance, made bearable by Ball and Almond’s skillful ability to involve the audience. The bouncy rhythms and delirious vocals of “Sex Dwarf,” a song that just should have been a global smash, provides a killer finale.
The bonus interview is truly a bonus. For the vast majority of Americans that may not know anything about Soft Cell, they’ll learn some pretty crazy stuff about the underground “industrial cabaret” band from Leeds that recorded Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” (that is something I need to talk to Ozzy about). A very informative chat about their early days and the band’s influences, it’s evidence that should this reunion have more substance, Ball and Almond could go on making music again for quite some time.