In the U.S., Soft Cell, the British duo of singer Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball, was a classic one-hit wonder, that hit being the remake of Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love," which dominated dance clubs and eventually peaked in the pop Top Ten with its synth-pop sound and Almond's plaintive vocal in 1981-1982. In the U.K., the group not only had a longer career, but also influenced a raft of similar performers. Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, originally released in Britain in the fall of 1981, contained both the band's first hit and its follow-up, "Bedsitter," its title referring to what in America would be called a studio apartment. (A third U.K. Top Five hit, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye," emerged from the LP.) At full album length, lyricist Almond's primary preoccupation, only suggested in "Tainted Love," was spelled out; this was a theme album about aberrant sexuality, a tour of a red-light district. The point was well made on "Sex Dwarf," with its oft-repeated chorus "Isn't it nice/Sugar and spice/Luring disco dollies to a life of vice?" Songs like "Seedy Films," "Entertain Me," and "Secret Life" expanded upon the subject. The insistent beats taken at steady dance tempos and the chilling electronic sounds conjured by Ball emphasized Almond's fascination with deviance; it almost seemed as though the album had been designed to be played in topless bars. British listeners saw through Almond's pretense or were amused by him, or both; more puritanical Americans tended to disapprove, which probably limited the group's long-term success stateside. But the music was undeniably influential. The 2002 CD reissue added two lengthy 12" single mixes of "Tainted Love," one of them a medley with the old Supremes hit "Where Did Our Love Go," the other a dub version.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann