The Guardian 1986

Jon Savage

DESPITE the propagandising of the “back to the roots” movement, Pop pleasures remain in artificially rather than autehenticity. The Human League go straight to the heart of the matter by hiring this year’s hot black dance team, Jam and Lewis (Janet Jackson, Alexander O’Neal) to produce and co-write “Crash”. Although on occasion the two strong styles cancel each other out, the bulk of the record is state-of-the-art, mealting pop music with all its ironies and flights of fancy.


Billboard August 1986

The magic touch of production team Harris & Lewis has helped catapult A & M to the top of the charts with Janet Jackson, and the label is obviously hoping to reap similar rewards with this project. While the band lacks the depth of talent that Jackson displayed, there are several strong shots for radio here, most notably “Human”, “The Real Thing” and “Love Is All That Matters”.


Creem January 1987
Ira Robbins

I HAVE GRAVE trouble imagining what sort of people would describe themselves as real fans of certain swill that's on the market today.


Q Magazine 1995

Bold decision to use hot deskmeisters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis illustrated give-it-a-go nature of League; paid off, aesthetically and spiritually, sadly not commercially (second and third J&L co-written singles, I Need Your Loving, Love Is All That Matters, flopped). Thanks for that sleeves photo, too.



NME July 1990

Stuart Maconie

…In practice “Crash” is a strange marriage. The band’s fizzy gawky pop heritage sat uneasily with the Minneapolis duo’s state of the art urban funk. Human stood out a mile.

William Ruhlmann

The Human League turned to American R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the wake of their success with Janet Jackson's Control, and the combination brought the group its second number one hit with the Jam-Lewis composition "Human," which harked back to the earlier "Don't You Want Me," albeit with a gentler tone. The album's second single, the Control-soundalike "I Need Your Loving," was also a Jam-Lewis song (as was the U.K.-only third single, "Love Is All That Matters"), but the bulk of the album was made up of group-written songs with appealing backing tracks that maintained their dance appeal while eschewing the overtly synthesized sound of previous albums. That made Crash an improvement over the lackluster Hysteria, but still not on a par with Dare.

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Catchy catchy catchy. These English synth darlings sure know how to get catchy. Production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis melds with the band's inimitable hooks to create a shimmering whole. "Love On The Run" offers pure pop, and "Are You Ever Coming Back?" beats Squeeze at their own smart slick game. "Jam" is music to sooth the alienated of all creeds: there's a vicious throbbing underlying the great hook. Both "Money" and "Swang" are simply irresistible: the former pairs a moral message with tight riffing, while the latter throws down an urgent dance directive. It's the bass and brass that give "I Need Your Loving" its punch. Every cut on Crash will pull you in. There're ballads ("Human"), icy English R & B ("Party") and pop for the people ("Love Is All That Matters"). The Human League more than live up to their reputation-they're daring, smart, and oh so cool. 2005 new
Human League: Philip Oakley.Nothing short of a C&W album recorded in the heart of Nashville would seem as far removed from the Human League's early experimental art-noise roots as 1986's CRASH. Following the commercial and critical disappointment of 1984's underrated HYSTERIA, singers Phil Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley parted with the instrumental axis of the Human League's hitmaking heyday and traveled to Minneapolis to record with ex-Prince protTgTs Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, then at the top of the charts as the masterminds of Janet Jackson's CONTROL.Jam and Lewis wrote and performed the songs on CRASH, with only occasional lyrical help from Oakey, and the results are fine mid-'80s pop-funk, even if they have almost nothing to do with the Human League's earlier records. The group was rewarded with the big American chart hit "Human," but from here on, every new Human League album was treated as a comeback attempt. April 2006 new
Alfred Soto

For better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

Since I never thought the Human League were the bee’s knees I approached
Crash without trepidation. I figured this silly collective got lucky with Dare—the most austere, rhythmically-challenged synth-pop album ever—and a handful of subsequent singles (I rep for “The Lebanon”). Silly? Let me count the ways: lead cyborg Philip Oakey’s ridiculous haircuts and affection for thirdhand futurism; their malnourished visual sense, which, for an act that employed an onstage projectionist, is galling; the absence of irony which in retrospect is one of their more endearing qualities, but renders their worst moments more gauche than, say, ABC or Scritti Politti’s.

Plus, let’s not forget that no rockists were championing the League in 1986. As representatives of a genre for which
Rolling Stone critics had little patience (unless you were the Pet Shop Boys circa Actually), they had nothing to lose by hiring the two hottest producers in the biz. It sounds like an ideal union: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ rhythmic spritz and Philip Oakey’s affectlessness. The result is a mismatch so complete that a judge in divorce court might have shed a few tears. Oakey and keyboardist/guitarist Ian Burden lacked songs worthy of Jam & Lewis’ brawn. So, in a fascinating move, they indentured their songwriting to new masters.

Consider its brazenness. Imagine a contemporary act of comparable one-dimensionality and fading commercial prospects—the Strokes, say—ceding control to Missy Elliott and Timbaland and you will approximate
Crash. Simply put: Jam & Lewis can make fun look as multihued as tragedy while the Human League made tragedy look as parched as an obituary.

We must take comfort in small pleasures. Oakey’s Morris Day impression is as hilarious as Morris Day’s Prince impression; the “Nasty” clone “I Need Your Loving” even gives him a chance to do “The Bird.” On “Jam,” the producers swathe him in cybernetic Busby Berkeley, while Oakey huffs and puffs, unable to blow that fucking house down (better anyway than “Swang,” in which Oakey assures us that his Mr. Roboto soft-shoes are “real city dancing”). He relaxes some on “Are You Ever Coming Back?” and “Money” and anticipates Curiosity Killed the Cat by almost six months on “The Real Thing.” Heh—the real thing. On an album with ironies as subterranean as
Crash’s, we take our yuks where we can find them.

But Jam & Lewis know exactly what they’re doing on the set’s two greatest songs. Suzanne Sulley belts the iridescent chorus of “Love is All That Matters,” her presence motivating The Little Engine That Could to chug past the verses as if he really had somewhere to go, which he does, for “Love is All That Matters” is a most clever sequel to
Dare’s “Love Action,” on which Oakey, at his most charmingly pompous, willed himself to believe in love. Thanks to the assured thud-thud of the drum program and Sulley’s duet with a synth playing a rollercoaster melody line (seek ye the 12” single), “Love is All That Matters” shows how a strong work ethic can create an estimable simulation of romantic bliss.

On “Human,” their second American number-one, the Worst Singer of All Time, baring his circuitry, is sublimated into gentle waves of sound and synth—love action itself, you might say. The Human League ceases to exist; they become a holographic simulacrum for Jam & Lewis themselves. His voice straining to escape the confines of its basso-pomp origins, Oakey admits that baby-did-a-bad-bad-thing with a sincerity that Jam-Lewis no doubt must have programmed into his mainframe (if “Human” were better sung it would dissolve into camp, worthy of Whitney Houston). Then Suzanne Sulley enters, in a brilliant spoken-word turn that eclipses her work on “Don’t You Want Me,” in which she humanized the complaints of Oakey’s whiny cad. Here she flings Oakey’s macho bullshit back at him by first admitting to the same trespasses (“When we were apart, I was human too”—understated perfection), then by mocking his excuses in a genderfuck (“I am just a
man!”) of wounded empathy. Sin now, rue later: it’s worthy of Christine McVie.

I don’t need to tell you any of this. “Human” is playing on adult-contemporary stations as we speak (Jam & Lewis would write variations on its chords: Alexander O’Neal’s “Sunshine” and Janet Jackson’s “Come Back to Me”), you can download “Love is All That Matters,”
Crash is back in print, and Jam-Lewis’ bank balances may rival Prince’s. And they never worked with English stiffs again.

When David Bowie released his soul-driven 'Young Americans' album, he referred to it as "plastic soul". However, I can think of few albums that deserve such an epithet as much as 'Crash'. Desperate to regain the status and satisfaction that 'Dare!' bought them, in an odd match the Human League decided to work with production duo Jerry Jam and Terry Lewis of Janet Jackson fame. It's a combination that works as badly as you'd think.

I own a lot of pretty poor albums, to be honest. Albums that were put out when the artist blatantly wasn't interested (Bowie's 'Tonight'), albums made when an artist has no idea where they're going (Duran's 'Big Thing'), albums that sound like a contractual obligation (PiL's 'This is What You Want…')… However, I don't think I've ever heard someone sound so uncomfortable as Phil Oakey does on the vast majority of this album.

The League are often viewed as having a rather dated sound, with 'Hysteria' and 'Romantic?' both attracting a fair bit of flak for this. However, I don't think anything they've done sounds so ridiculously like everything bad about the 1980s as this. Most of the album is poor-rate filler, utterly soulless vapid production line pop. It must have been soul-destroying for the band to effectively be moulded into the Jam/Lewis sound, and used effectively as session players.

There are a couple of high points. The ballad "Human" is more of a throwback to "Louise" from 'Hysteria', allowing Oakey, Susan Sulley and Jo Catherall to showcase their vocal styles, with a subtle musical arrangement instead of the predominant smothering beats on much of the album. "Love is All That Matters" is similarly well-constructed, and in much better shape that the single remix on the 1988 'Greatest Hits' compilation.

Aside from that, it's a mix of the of production-line mediocre and the downright bad. "Swang", "Jam" and "Party" are the worst thing the band ever did, and just about every track outstays its' welcome. The only reason to buy this is the album cut of "Love is All That Matters" (as "Human" is a compilation staple, and works better cut lose from the dross of the album), and that's not enough of one to spend much on this.

Completists only.