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Happiness Not Included by Soft Cell – Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 11th 2022
First Soft Cell album in 20 years is here
In the 1980s there was one song you could guarantee was going to be played at a Blue Light Disco – 'Tainted Love' by Soft Cell. It might have been released in 1982, but in 1987 it was still there, dragging people out onto the dance floor by its sheer infectiousness. Lead singer Marc Almond then released a track that I loved – 'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart', a duet with Gene Pitney (1989), a cover of Pitney's original that I also love. And, truth be told, I think that is all the Soft Cell I knew off the top of my head.

So, when a friend came over because she needed a couple of songs for a gym class she's running, she brought this new CD she'd picked up the previous day for me to listen to.

*Happiness Not Included by Soft Cell (2022)
soft cell, cd, album, cover

So, no, I don't own this. Yet. And the asterisk is there in the title. It's like it's called Soft Cell*… and the asterisk indicates the happiness is not included. Well, lyrically, that's not wrong. However, this is a nice throwback to the eighties and yet it still feels like it fits in with the modern music scene. I was not ready for it to be this good, and so I borrowed it, listened to it a few more times, and now I am writing this.

And, yes, this is yet another artist or group releasing new music after a long layoff. In this case, according to their website, it's been 20 years since their last studio album. Wow. You would not know that to listen to this.

''Happy Happy Happy' Okay, first thing – the lyrics here are stunning! How all the bad bits of science fiction stories are now our reality. The music is wonderful behind it, and this is one of the better opening tracks I have heard in a while. What a start! And a highlight.

'Polaroid' I am not sure if this is based on reality or not, but this song about the people around the Andy Warhol Factory scene is a decent pop tune, and I really like the inclusion of the spoken word pieces from various people.

'Bruises On All My Illusions' Another slightly bleak look at the world. I think there is some hope in there, but it feels very dark… and yet the music belies that.

'Purple Zone' They have released an alternate version featuring the Pet Shop Boys as the single, which is also really good, but on the album it's just Soft Cell. Things slow down a little, and yet there is more a sense of joy in the tune. I think it's about getting older, and not really caring in the end.

'Heart Like Chernobyl' "Oh dear, I feel like North Korea in the winter…" opens up this track. This is a little more akin to the Soft Cell sound I remember from the 80s, and it is another fine track.

'Light Sleepers' We slow down for a pop ballad here, and the change of pace works. Even though I have not seen it advertised as such, and the website does not indicate it, I get the feeling this is a thematic, if not concept album about coping with the modern world.

'Happiness Not Included' The title track is one of the definite highlights from this album. There is an anger about it, and yet also a sense of hope. However, lines like "Our social media makes us slaves/ Like children we have to be told to behave" are definite railing against the modern world. Love it.

'Nostalgia Machine' More of those fun 1980s pop stylings I grew up with, this is a track with a bit more of a sense of playfulness about it, even if the concept is dark.

'Nighthawks' This one didn't really do it for me. Not sure what it was, but it just felt a little off.

'I'm Not A Friend Of God' A slower one, that, even after repeated listenings, I am not sure about.

'Tranquiliser' This one is more like it. Smooth pop stylings that wash over the listener… like the titular drug. Nicely done.

'New Eden' We close out with a slower track, one that wants a change in society, but done without being in-your-face. A pleasant way to end this album.

The vast majority of songs on this collection really hit the spot. And the lyrics are stunning! Another songwriter making me feel insignificant. Like so many artists who have done this lately, the time off has really helped give a new view of the world and a new lease on musical life, and I am enjoying it all so much. Soft Cell might be considered one-hit wonders, but there are some tracks on here that should be able to put that to an end.

This is a really good album, and one I will definitely be buying for myself once finances improve. As it is, being able to listen to it has been a joy, and some of the tracks are amongst the best songs I have heard this year.

Recommended, most definitely.
soft cell, album, cd
Taken from the Soft Cell Twitter page

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Why? Soft Cell are back
Where: Everywhere
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