Home Read Albums Of The Week: Soft Cell | *Happiness Not Included

Albums Of The Week: Soft Cell | *Happiness Not Included

The reunited synth-pop duo sound better than you'd expect after 20 years away.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Soft Cell — frontman Marc Almond and producer/instrumentalist Dave Ball — make their long-awaired return with *Happiness Not Included, their fifth studio release and first new album since 2002’s Cruelty Without Beauty.

One play of *Happiness Not Included reveals all of the traits that fans first adored Soft Cell for: That distinctive and striking balance between light and shade, hope and despair, the personal and the universal. Highlights include the yearning, airy pop of Purple Zone, which contrasts its uplifting sonics with Almond’s darkly doomed lyrics, while Light Sleepers drifts with a daydream elegance that neatly matches its subject matter. Elsewhere, Bruises On My Illusions is bigger and more abrasive, its baroque-tinged synth energy elevated by theatrical vocal harmonies, while the pure grandeur of New Eden closes with the album on a suitably cinematic note.

New Eden best encapsulates the album’s themes as Almond sings, “All those plans we made in the ’60s … Seem naïve now we’ve grown older / Leaving we’re leaving looking for the New Eden.” Changing perceptions of the passing of time are a recurring theme throughout. At various points, Almond explores the disappointment of a future that never materialised, reflects on his experiences at The Factory, expresses disillusionment at the modern media landscape, and comes to accept that life isn’t eternal.

“In this album I wanted to look at us as a society: A place where we have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality and decency, food before the rights of animals, fanaticism before fairness and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others,” says Almond. “But in the album there is also a belief that there is a utopia if we can peel back the layers and understand what really matters.”

Adds Ball: “Recorded remotely during a world pandemic. Science fiction stories for the 21st century.”