masterpiece; moody, evocative, provocative. It fulfils with a (subtle?)
vengeance so much of what's been scrawled about the League so far whilst
exposing a new facet of both their capabilities and interest.
I can hear the groans already,
as poker-faced scuff of the portentious title, giggle at the smart grey
cover and frown at the vague conceptual pretensions. This record is not, The
Human League as such, but The Human League exploring and letting no one
down. There’s no evidence of The Stupid League’s warped wit, except on the
enclosed flexi-disc, which has League members discussing with manager Bob
Last the practicalities and merits of enclosing an explanatory flexi-disc.
The four instrumental
illustrations on the non-flexi-disc give no sign that they’ve lost their
sense of economy and pace, Fully aware of the general tedium of
electronic instrumentals, the League keep each part tight, neat and active.
Don’t expect anything radically provocative, but there’s a lot of
compulsive synthesizer noises that are best played dead loud in the dark. A
record that finally forces you to sell ‘Pheadra’, a bonus, before the League
get down to the bitty nitty gritty with the insatiable Virgin.
“We never get the chance to
play instrumentals on stage, mainly because we don’t want to bore our
audience to death”.
“So we thought we’d bore them
Don’t you believe it. This
record will only bore bores.
NME July 1990
Dignity Of Labour”, resplendent it tis stark monochrome sleeve shot of Yuri
Gagarin, was a 20-minute electronic suite, thin on tunes, heavy on enigma
and provocation. Entirely instrumental and brutally uncommercial, it
nevertheless further whetted the critical and public appetites for the band…
November 2003 new
Some know the story.....some don't......
This was released nearly a year after their debut 1978 single "Being Boiled
/ Circus of Death" and before their first album- "Reproduction".
This would be the 'previous incarnation', before the two young ladies joined
the ranks and before producer Martin Rushent (known for his sterling work on
the desk with the likes of Gentle Giant (!) and Buzzcocks), duly took hold
of them and fired them up the singles charts. This first League were
treading quite a different path.
There were articles in the UK music papers of the time (1977-78), that put
them in a box with Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, The Residents, Pere
Ubu, Ultravox and Eno amongst others and then labelled said box- "New Musick".
Well, I suppose you had to make some kind of news article reporting about
these "electronic garage groups" that were seeping into the UK underground
over the last 18 months, even though the names that were involved were quite
varied in their approaches and some of them had been operating for quite
some time, the picture was not as clear as it now appears today.
This first (and best!) version of The Human League consisted of Martyn Ware
and Ian Craig Marsh (who had previously been known as 'The Future' together
with soon-to-be Clock DVA man- Adi Newton also on board) and together with
crooner Phil Oakey and Projectionist / Tape Operator Adrian Wright, forged
quite a dark repertoire of Synth-driven ditties, although not without the
odd dash of sardonic humour.
Their single "Empire State Human" being a good example, new pop music with a
real skewed flavour, as the backing vocals intone- "Fetch more water, fetch
more sand...the biggest person....in the land"- and with a b-side, the
track-"Introducing", that is all synthetic ambulance sirens and goon-loop
Ware and Marsh would then split from Oakey and Wright after the second
album- "Travelogue" and "Holiday 80 EP", going on to have their own chart
success via Heaven 17 and concentrating on their British Electric Foundation
It's clear from the outset, that the brains behind the early operations and
this illuminating EP, were that of Ware and Marsh, that's not to say the
others didn't have an input, but it's just that these two had been swimming
in Synths and Electronics in the early and mid-seventies and honing their
Part 1 is a good example of how they set off 'synthesized sounds' but yet
have that human and slightly emotional feel. A sequenced half-melody that
bounces forth and gets really going as some bass synth- punches bolster the
refrain which gets to sound more melodic as it gains pace.
No pun intended, but the future never sounded so good, especially in the
spring of 1979.
Part 2 is a fantastic diamond hard, crystal cut, electronic stomper, very
stripped bare and oozing in delay ricochets which then make the crystal
oscillations much thicker while projecting it up there with the best of
Chris Carter's sequenced Synth work with Throbbing Gristle and giving
Cabaret Voltaire a run for their money to boot.
The remaining Parts of this decidedly odd- but yet strangely irresistable
EP, consist of another stripped but driving sequence of analogue outbursts,
and a piece which could be an updated out-take from Louis and Bebe Barron's
1950s OST of 'Forbidden Planet'- which, when you think of it, makes this
whole record all the more bizarre.
It's as if Ware and Marsh just HAD to put something contemporary and offbeat
out there to fester, it's as if they wouldn't have been able to sleep,
before the structured songs of the debut LP were put to the public.
Journalist Paul Morley said at the time of this release, something about
throwing your copy of 'Phaedra' away, as this was the real future vision in
There was also a free flexi-disc with this 12", which contained er... a
group conversation about what to put on the flexi-disc!!
Along with tracks like the excellent "Dancevision", they were running the
electro-gamut in "new musicks", they straddled the fence of commercial and
underground and there has been some great music from the B.E.F. camp in the
form of "Music for Stowaways", which explored many avenues and routes of
sound / music making, without losing their sense of humour- they were even
going to call the 'Stowaways' album- "Music To Kill Your Parents By" as a
skit on Eno's 'Music For Airports'!!
It's this EP though, with it's classic cover photo of the marching Cosmonaut
Yuri Gagarin, which houses these bare-boned sequencers and eerie VCO sonatas
pulsing within, that are well worth owning.
Martyn Ware also had the edge on the rest of the group image-wise, as while
they all looked the accepted part with the foppish post-modernist stance and
'flick-head' barnet of the time , Ware appeared on TOTP looking like an
italian porn director with designer style sleazo-beard and would have been a
perfect model for those large black and white photo-cards that used to grace
many a barber shop wall.