The nice thing about the new-wave revival is that the original artists won't look quite as pathetic as their punk-rock counterparts when they try to cash in on reunion tours. While a 50-year-old guy playing three chords and singing about youthful rebellion strikes me as wholly disingenuous, a 50-year-old guy sitting behind a keyboard and moaning about sex, drugs, and money seems fair enough. If so, few one-hit wonders are more deserving of the bankroll than Soft Cell. As synth-pop's most flagrant harbinger of sleaze, Soft Cell never tried to hide its primary preoccupation with aberrant sexuality and, for this, it was beloved. The two musicians first appeared in 1981 with the soft-core, user-friendly single "Tainted Love, quickly followed by Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, an intimate tour of the red-light district in their minds, containing such songs as "Seedy Films," "Frustration," "Bedsitter," and the untouchable "Sex Dwarf." While Soft Cell's new record, Cruelty Without Beauty, is no Erotic Cabaret, songs like "Caligula Syndrome," "Sensation Nation," and "Whatever It Takes" suggest that the band still has a knack for seedy dance music -- as well as an aptitude for ironic self-reflection. Soft Cell performs at the Warfield on Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. Ticket price is $25-30; call 775-7722.
Born in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian republic in the former Soviet Union, Irini Mikhailova absorbed the musical traditions at her fingertips while training at the St. Petersburg Academy of Music. After moving to the Bay Area, Mikhailova formed the trio Lumin, marrying such old-world sounds to a Western aesthetic. On Lumin's latest album, Hadra, the threesome casts Balkan, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Asian shadows over progressive breakbeats and driving percussion, with Mikhailova's haunting ululations lying down with hardcore drum 'n' bass to give birth to a fiery new-world fusion. Tonight, Lumin prepares "Samadi," an artistic appeal for tolerance that also features the electro Qawwali arrangements of Shabaz and DJ Sep. Expect belly dancers, cirque performers, chai, and rich aromas on Saturday, Dec. 7, at SomArts at 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $12; call 978-2710 ext. 220.