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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Virgin EMI

"Out in clubland, having fun, now I'm hiding from the sun." No lyrics could have ever wrapped up the duel nature of Soft Cell's music better, these lines (from "Bedsitter") tells of their fun new wave club hits and their intimate electronic dirges, and the effect they both have on listeners. The true magic of the band is when they could combine the two, like on their signature song "Tainted Love." But there are plenty of excellent songs by the duo that were never praised as highly, and most of them make it to this collection of their best material. "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is a touching ballad that floats its lush and heavenly melodies on a bed of throbbing synthesizers and minimalist percussion. "Sex Dwarf" is a sleazy anthem that features plodding keyboards, aggressive drums, and one of the ugliest vocal performances committed to record. It isn't that Marc Almond has a death metal throat, but instead it's the way he creeps and crawls over the track like a perverted lounge singer. The sweet gloss of "Where the Heart Is" reveals a bright and energetic group using their quirky approach to shape a thoughtful pop nugget, while "Numbers" predates the Pet Shop Boys' sarcastic-yet-touching synth pop with like-minded lyrics and equally lush keyboards. There isn't a wasted moment on the album, and the documentation of a brilliant pop group deconstructing their own genre to fit their needs is quite refreshing when so much music from this time period comes off as so dated. A good song overcomes any wacky '80s keyboard work ("Soul Inside") or high-concept production techniques ("Memorabilia"), and that's the lesson to learn from this excellent collection of hidden gems. ~ Bradley Torreano

Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Although a vinyl box set appeared during the early 1980s, and several of the mixes therein were subsequently appended to CD reissues of Soft Cell's regular albums, 1999's three-CD The Twelve Inch Singles represented the first ever corralling of the duo's entire extended remix output, and with it, undying evidence for Soft Cell's claim to immortality. Great 45s and terrific albums told only part of the story, after all. Across their earliest 12" singles, the sequence that led from "Memorabilia" to "Torch," Soft Cell utterly rejuvenated a format that had been growing increasingly stale and uninspired, not only offering purchasers more music for their money, but ensuring that it was music they'd actually want, as opposed to an extra few minutes of beat nailed onto the outro. And so "Tainted Love" segued into a breathless lament through "Where Did Our Love Go?"; "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye," commenced with a three minute-plus clarinet solo, and "Torch" descended into a spoken word passage in which guest vocalist Cindi Ecstacy reduces Almond's attempts at fawning fan worship to ashes. Later in life, with the duo now bucking against the European Top 40 fame that had so unexpectedly embraced them, Soft Cell's 12"s stretched even further. Routinely doubling the length of the familiar 45s, the hysterical angst of the B-side "It's a Mug's Game," the haunting dismissiveness of "Numbers," and the percussive self-destruction of "Soul Inside" transformed songs that weren't that friendly to begin with into veritable fire storms of assaultive dynamics. By the time one reaches the final salvo of releases -- a pair of James Bond covers, a forgotten BBC radio session, and the electric "Down in the Subway" -- Soft Cell were all but unrecognizable as the sweet young things who sang "Tainted Love" just three years before. Their final single closed with a brittle cover of the Heartbreakers' "Born to Lose," and so, it seemed, it had turned out. Soft Cell broke up not because they wanted to, but because it was the only way they could ever achieve what they really needed. Completing and concluding the saga, the The Twelve Inch Singles package closes with four 1991 remixes. The initial 1999 release, however, also packed a "Club 69 Future Mix" of "Tainted Love," a track whose inclusion apparently so dismayed Marc Almond that he requested the release be withdrawn before issue (around 4,000 copies escaped to the stores). It finally returned to stores in 2001 with a revised version omitting the offending mix and, quite honestly, it isn't really missed. ~ Dave Thompson

Pop - Released January 1, 1999 | Island Mercury

In the spring of 1982, The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" was a hit, but that summer, Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" was a phenomenon. Staying on the Billboard charts for 52 weeks straight, the single made it clear that the new wave of British synthesizer bands were commercially viable in America. AM radio stations even willingly played the nine-minute extended version of the song, which paired the obscure Ed Cobb (of "Dirty Water" fame) R&B tune with a complete reworking of a certified soul landmark, Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Where Did Our Love Go." That second song is included--though "Tainted Love" isn't--on the EP NON-STOP ECSTATIC DANCING, which collects extended mixes of several other Soft Cell singles, including the remarkable "What?" and the contents-under-pressure "Insecure...Me?" alongside a remix of the album track "Sex Dwarf." This is one of the first and best of the early-'80s remix EPs, or "mini-albums."

Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI