Melody Maker 1995

Did you see them on “Top Of The Pops”? It was like everything that’s happened since 1982 never happened. Daft little synth drum. One of those guitar-shaped keyboards that I’d previously thought only the supremely useless Pseudo Echo could wield with straight faces. Oakey still as as handsome as ever, admittedly. Ultimately, though, all rather creepy, like waxworks coming to life.

Fittingly the, the single itself does little more than beg the reply: “More than a decade back, you daft old buggers”.


Q Magazine 1995

…I’m very excited about this one”, says Dale as we move onto THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Reinventing themselves as, er, synth tyoes who comes from Sheffield but are a bit older that they used to be, the League return with the “Tell Me When”.  “What I like about this record”, Dale ponders, “which is what I like about contemporary bands like Oasis and Dodgy, is that there is always a strong melody. It’s not good enough to have a beat for me. That’s why I don’t understand Nirvana, it’s not my bag. But I would buy this.” Februaury 1995 new
Al Crawford

The Human League gave themselves an almost insurmountable reputation to live up to after producing the seminal Dare! back in 1981. Although they've made various attempts to update their sound over the years, they've been unable to repeat that success. "Tell Me When", the first single from the new album Octopus
, isn't about to change anything.

That's not to say that it's a bad song. "Tell Me When" is right up there with the best of their post-Dare! material. However, it still lacks that certain something, the sparkle and innovation of the League's '81 lineup.

What it does do, though, is something that the group tried unsuccessfully on their 1990 album Romantic? - to take The Human League's distinctive sound, heavily rooted in the early 80s synth-pop boom, and fuse that with a contemporary dance sound. Where the tracks on Romantic? came over as either anachronistic or too self-consciously trendy, "Tell Me When" is a much more elegant attempt at updating the Human League.

This, the first of the two CD singles leads off with the basic, vanilla mix of "Tell Me When". It's bright, up-tempo dance pop that, while not exactly overflowing with the distinctive League synth sounds of yore, is easily recognisable due to the voice of Phil Oakey. He's perhaps not on his best vocal form here - his voice sounds a little strained and strident - but his vocals still lend the track a distinctive flavour.

Next up is a Utah Saints remix of the same track. Now this one surprised me a lot. Those who've read my reviews in the past will be aware that I hold many of those involved in the currently flourishing remix business in the highest contempt. I've heard too many tracks where the remixer has demonstrated little or no empathy for the material and has not so much reinterpreted as replaced the track.

However, what Utah Saints have produced here is definitely not your run-of-the-mill dance remix. If anything, this remix fuses the League sound of old and a modern dance beat even more seamlessly than the original mix. The beat's suitably beefed up, but the vocals and melody are retained in full and the remixers have thrown in some wonderful synth sounds straight out of the Dare! era. It's very smoothly done indeed.

The third track is a welcome rarity, one of the "YMO Vs Human League" remixes that appeared a year or two ago. Given the ludicrous prices for which the "YMO Vs The Human League" EP changes hands, being able to find one of these tracks on a low-priced CD single is very nice indeed. The track itself, a dance-ified version of YMO's "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun", isn't really particularly good and has little more than novelty value, but it's still nice to have anyway.

The last track is, for me, the most enjoyable. "The Bus To Crookes" is a straightforward synth instrumental that can trace its ancestry right back to The Human Leagues earliest releases. It's a classic League synth track that would have fitted in perfectly well on Dare! and which has features that wouldn't have been out of place on their earlier stuff too.

This is a pretty good single, and also a good sampler for anyone wary about forking out for Octopus. The same cannot, be said, alas, for the second "Tell Me When" single.

Ugh. While the first  "Tell Me When" single managed to include a remix, a rarity and an old-fashioned B-side, this second single follows the recent remix obsession and consists of five mixes of the same track.

It includes two mixes each by Utah Saints and Development Corporation, and one by Red Jerry. I've already covered one of the Utah Saints remixes, since it appears on the other single. Alas, it's about the only decent thing on this one. The other Utah Saints remix retains some of the ingredients of that mix (ie it at least retains the vocals) but adds a tired dance beat and a heap of bass.

Pretty disposable, but still light years ahead of the Red Jerry remix which, to be generous, is dire rave fodder of the first order. The first Development Corporation remix fuses ingredients of the original track with what sounds like the rhythm track from Underworld's "Mmm...Skyscraper I Love You". Take it or leave it. Leaving it is recommended. Their "Overworld" remix isn't much better. Yawn.

I'd suggest that League fans avoid this one at all costs. Buy the other single but give this remix disc a miss unless you absolutely must have everything.

8/11 January 2005 new
Azrael Racek

I love me some Human League, but this release is a real let down. Yes, it is released in 1994 (way after most of the eighties bands had given up and quit, or just petered out.) But I thought that it might be decent - a hidden later gem, as it were. I got it for a dollar at some Buffalo Pawn shop (they actually have live buffalos roaming in front of their shop - a wild and woolly thing in the heart of Washington State!) It sounds like Human League, but it's a really boring song. The remix by Utah Saints sounds more like the Happy Mondays than the Happy Mondays do.

My advice to you would be - even if you see this offered for free, run screaming in the opposite direction.
Cute buffalos though.


The Sunday Times Ireland November 2005 new

Nine years away from the Top 10, they returned with this syncopated synth-beauty in 1995.