After disbanding Soft Cell, vocalist Marc Almond pursued a solo career that followed the same vaguely sleazy, electronic dance-pop his former group had made popular. Almond's strength was never his personality — his voice tends to waver around the notes instead of hitting them. It was the atmosphere he created with the synths and drum machines. Underneath all of the electronics and disco rhythms, Almond harked back to the days of cabaret singers, updating that sound for the dance clubs of the '80s.
Before he properly started a solo career, Marc Almond formed Marc & the Mambas, a loose congregation that featured Matt Johnson of The The and Annie Hogan. Untitled (1982), the group's first album, featured covers of Lou Reed, Syd Barrett, and Jacques Brel; throughout his career, Almond would cover the songs of Brel, which he had learned from the records of Scott Walker. Like Walker, Almond used Brel's heavily orchestrated compositions and social ruminations as a starting point, both musically and lyrically — Almond added a self-conscious element of camp with his Euro-disco and occasionally sleazy lyrics. Torment & Toreros (1983), Marc & the Mambas' second album, explored this path in more detail than Untitled, only to an orchestral background. After its release, the group broke up.
Almond formed the backing group the Willing Sinners in 1984, releasing Vermin in Ermine in 1984. Almond began to hit his stride with this album, which fulfilled most of his campy cabaret fantasies. Stories of Johnny, released the following year, was more cohesive, spawning a British hit with the title song. Even though he maintained a cult following in England and various parts of Europe, his records were not being released in the U.S.
In 1987, Almond released Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, his first proper solo album and his bleakest work to date; a compilation, Singles: 1984-1987, appeared the same year. Stars We Are, released the following year, was a brighter, more welcoming album that revived his commercial career. In addition to a duet with Nico on "Your Kisses Burn," Almond dueted with Gene Pitney on Pitney's own "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," which became a number one single. Stars We Are also became his first album released in the U.S. since Soft Cell.
- by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
All Music Group