Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soft Cell - "Memorabilia" from the CD Non Stop Erotic Cabaret

Soft Cell Non Stop Erotic Cabaret CD coverSoft Cell's larger FM radio hit notwithstanding, "Memorabilia" is in my estimation the high-water point for 80's synthpop.

Or at least, it's the point where the genre's aims best mesh with my own tastes, which admittedly run towards the somewhat dark.

And "Memorabilia" is no doubt that. Beyond its proto-electronica digital clicks, and beeps, and whirrs, the song gives us an evocative and disturbing first-person view of a collector-by-disposition who veers wildly into dysfunction when the physical relationship he'd longed for fails to materialize.

Interesting, how our narrator (and Soft Cell themselves) manage to imbue the most trivial of objects with an air of gravity that they don't in fact possess, how keychains and ashtrays and other trinkets of mass production transform through tenuous association into emotional markers, the real enough hoarded residue of a fantasy liaison.

His delusion yearns for reinforcement, whether it be through furtively snapped photographs, through cheap melmac souvenirs, or through malleable memory that must be altered on its demanding behalf.

If you polish your delusion strongly enough, I have never had you will gradually become molded into . . . I've been there

Places are collected in this way too, towns that he's passed through and their pretty postcards for sale, the snowstorms trudged through in winter recursively mimicked in Taiwanese plastic, resorts visited clandestinely on the Costa del Sol, and the girl with him there in her mantilla, or, really, markers for the monothematically deluded tourist placed anywhere else the fetishistic meets the obsessive-compulsive.

File under: Synthpop


Anonymous said...

Nine Inch Nails did a great version of this song as a b-side to one of the "Downward Spiral" singles. Well worth checking it out. Right On!

rastronomicals said...

Hey Anon,

Thanks for dropping by, for reading, and for leaving a comment. I really do appreciate it.

But boy, do I think you're offbase in your estimation of the NIN cover version.

NIN's version is basically just a rhythm track, with none of the pulsing keyboards of Soft Cell's version. Which would be OK, good covers can be different. Except there's no guitars either.

Or singing, for that matter. Either Marc Almond's somewhat overwrought style, or Reznor's standard angry tone could have worked, but nope.

Mostly it's Trent Reznor mumbling. And I think that somewhere buried in the mix is the contents of a prank phone call.


I was thinking of saying something like the following in the post, but I couldn't figure out a way to work it in:

The NIN version may be the worst cover I've ever heard of a song I like by a band I like as well.

If I can think of some others I'll post 'em here, but for right now, sure, let's call Nine Inch Nail's version of "Memorabilia" the champ of bad covers you'd otherwise care about.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brother, you are obviously very articulate and well read with your popular music stuff but i digress, Trent Reznor's version is quite amazing in its minimal electro execution. The actual mix with the muffled sound elevates the final product and i guess we have to agree to disagree on that. Now, do you wanna argue David Gray's version of "Say Hello Wave Goodbye"? Trust me, i think he did a great job. Talk Soon Brother!