Just in time for Halloween – the sound of synthesized putrefaction, metaphorically speaking anyway.
What is the most successful technopop song of all time? Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from their ’81 Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album. Originally an obscure soul single from the ’60s by Gloria Jones, Soft Cell’s version finds a perfect blend of electronic chill from synthman David Ball, and vocal heat from singer Marc Almond.
Ball’s haunted house synth melody line, and plinking synth “anh-anh” on the 1 beat of each measure, provide a spooky, watery pool in which the flamboyant Almond emotively splashes about, decrying the “tainted love” of the title.
“Taint” conjures a particularly livid brand of putrefaction, implying the uncomfortable truth that love doesn’t just evaporate, but lingers in an increasingly fetid, yet still alluring state. It is ironic that the song hit just before the world became aware of a byproduct of literally tainted love, AIDS.
Even better than the album and single version is the 12″ medley with “Where Did Our Love Go?,” a poignant coda that finds Almond pleading for release in an ever-diminishing voice from the exquisite torture of his predicament.