Marc Almond - Trials Of Eyeliner reissue album review

There’s a lot more to the singer than Soft Cell and Tainted Love

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If this lavish, 189-track box set says one core thing about Marc Almond and his career, it’s that the singer has consistently revelled in the freedom to do whatever the hell he wants with that extraordinary voice of his.

Divided roughly into three sections – Almond’s choice of album tracks, every one of his singles, both solo and with endless collaborators, and a ton of rarities and lost gems – this collection is very obviously for diehard fans and no one else, and yet there is such a depth of creative joy in evidence throughout that it wouldn’t take much exposure to this to turn a sceptic into a believer.

The highlights are numerous and ram home exactly how diverse Almond’s catalogue has turned out to be: one minute he’s bellowing ageless pop singles with Soft Cell, the next he’s a snarling avant-garde ogre backed by Jim ‘Foetus’ Thirlwell or industrial eccentrics Coil, stopping off to transform into something close to the goth Liberace as he soars through duets with PJ Proby, Anthony Hegarty and countless others.

It’s thrilling to be reminded exactly how vital Almond was around the time of 1987’s Mother FistThere Is A Bed and The Hustler are among the most startling things here – and even the dead-eyed cosiness of Jools Holland’s Rhythm And Blues Orchestra is magically whipped into vivid, virile life with Almond at the mic, while track No.189, I Created Me, serves as a philosophical full-stop that is as tender, fearless and wild as Almond himself.