Marc Almond

Dancing Marquis

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In his fourth decade as a pop singer, Marc Almond still knows how to tease punters anxious for the next project. Most of his records -- from Soft Cell to Marc & the Mambas to his wildly eclectic solo albums -- have been, more often than not, deeply satisfying and well worth waiting for. The Dancing Marquis is a glorious tease. It pairs the vinyl-only Dancing Marquis and Tasmanian Tiger EPs with a pair of new tracks and two remixes as a precursor to his next release, the soundtrack to his one-man song cycle Ten Plagues, written for him by playwright Mark Ravenhill. There's a bit of everything here. The opening title track (produced by Tony Visconti) walks a jagged line between glam, Stray Cats rockabilly, and bright modern pop. "Burn Bright" features a brief acoustic guitar/brushed snare intro that recalls Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" before magically transforming itself into one of Almond's finer ballads, orchestrated by strings and a female backing chorus. Now in his fifties, he has lost none of his range or power. He's also kept his deliberately decadent appeal, as evidenced by the Jarvis Cocker-penned "Worship Me Now," boasting jagged, pulsing synths, looped drums, and a keyboard bassline. With tongue firmly in cheek, Almond, egged on by his chorus, elucidates on the quality of his sex appeal and power. (This cut is also the subject of the two remixes by Spatial Awareness and Roland Faber & Kal Luedeling.) "Tasmanian Tiger" is a classic raved-up glam waltz à la Gary Glitter. Libertine guitarist Carl Barat wrote "Love Is Not on Trial," another glorious ballad delivered by the singer with naked yet dramatic effusiveness; a woody upright bass and stinging lead guitar underscore his every word. The most moving cut on the set is "Death of a Dandy," written for the late artist Sebastian Horsley. Commencing as a skeletal small combo number, it adds layer upon layer of instrumentation until it explodes as a full rock band/orchestra/choral number, with a wrangling guitar break adding an undercurrent of pathos to Almond's admiration for his subject. The Dancing Marquis gives fans a couple of new cuts (neither of which will appear on Ten Plagues) and opportunities to revel in the truly unique work of a too often undercelebrated pop stylist.

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