THE VERY BEST OF REVIEWS

 

The Sunday Times August 2003

As the 80's finally get their due respect few bands are better poised for rehabilitation than the League. No selection can ever do full justice to their range, but from the pure pop perfection of Mirror Man and the iconic Don't You Want Me to the majesty of Empire State Human, this one has an extremely good try. A second disc of remixes further emphasises the debt modern electronic music owes them.

5/5

 

http://members.tripod.com/designermagazine September 2003  new
Alex McCann
The mixed fortunes of 80s popstars eh. Boy George - heroin addict turned superstar DJ turned West End Luvvie. Adam Ant - currently sectioned under the mental health act. Tony Hadley - last seen degrading himself on Reborn In The USA alongside Dollar and Sonia. And The Human League I hear you ask? A near sold out tour of theatres across the UK, Liberty X and George Michael sampling "Being Boiled" and "Love Action" for Top 10 singles respectively and a compilation album that proves alongside ABC they were possibly the greatest pop band of the 80s.

The rule of pop suggests that after 20-30 years that the decade must be rehashed and while it was true that for many years the 80s were terminally uncool and attempts to start a New Romantic revival with Romo were none starters, it seems that with the School Disco nights and the electroclash scene twin peaks of culture right now that the 80s are well and truly in fashion. For some people "Don't You Want Me" might remind you of that terrible advert, but it still doesn't distract from the fact it's one of those all time classics that DJs at Wedding Receptions and 21st Party's will never take away from. "The Sound Of The Crowd" all military position, "Mirror Man" aping the Motown sounds of the decade previous, "Together In Electric Dreams" with it's pop perfection and later hits such as "Tell Me When" and "One Man In My Heart" which sound better than they ever did when they were first released.

As per usual the remix CD is worth forgetting about and is only there to drag in the completists out there, but that's a fault of the music industry rather than the band itself. I've never been one to shy away from pop music and while acts such as S Club have released classic singles over the past few years you have to wonder whether they'll be being played 20 years down the line. It's doubtful and yet listening to these songs again it seems we'll never tire of them. See you down the front on the tour in December.

 

www.thecritic.info September 2003 new
Les Linyard

And as the car pulls slowly away from the Petrol Pump the slightly geeky guy spouts “Don’t You Want Me Baby, Whoah, Whoh, Whoah” and the lyrics from The Human League’s only number 1 (surprising when you listen to the rest of this greatest hits package) are heard once more, albeit spoken in an advert.
Phil Oakey and the ladies have had a small resurgence of late thanks to the wonders of sampling with Liberty X and Dare featuring amongst the “borrowers”. This double CD has all the big hits and a few little extras chucked in including some excellent remixes. So Love Action (I Believe In Love), (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Open Your Heart, Life On Your Own, Human and Together In Electric Dreams sit proudly alongside the aforementioned chart topper. Amazingly it doesn’t sound dated at all and the remixes pull them right up to date with generally good effect (on the second disc here).
Grow your hair extremely long on one side, look quite moody and settle in for some fun –
also check them out on their December tour if you get the chance….

 

www.musicomh.com September 2003 new
Steve Hands

Back in 1981, The Human League, armed with little but banks of synthesisers, achieved Full Spectrum Dominance over the Top 40, much to the alarm of the army of "rockists" who believed that the electric guitar carried it with it an eternal certificate of meaningful authenticity. Phil Oakey became the kind of singer whose name was to be found scrawled on young girls' schoolbags.

It was not always thus. The Human League appeared from the art-house left field as The Future, before releasing their initial public offering: a dark, futurist dancefloor classic, to cacophonous silence in 1978. Being Boiled, still famously the only hit single about the breeding of silkworms, was all paranoid synths and proto hip-hop beats, informed as much by the robo-funk of Kraftwerk as it was by disco-pioneer Giorgio Moroder.

Despite this epiphany, it was commercial death in 1978. Two albums' worth of similar material followed, before band members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left to re-launch Tina Turner's career (they're to blame) and become Heaven 17.

Left alone with nothing but his synths and Doctor Who repeats for company, Oakey ditched the songs about crows, babies, and growing "tall, tall, big as a wall". He recruited two girl singers who specialised in the kind of arm-dancing that then passed for choreography, and began to write serious pop songs in the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-grows-hair-down-one-side-of-his-head mould.

With this surety of purpose, Oakey and his premiership Human League released three hit singles, steadily getting closer to that precious numero uno. Then, on the eve of the album Dare, they let Don't You Want Me out of the traps, a simple hymn of lost love and cocktail bars in Sheffield that would have got to the top spot with or without a bullet. Dare followed, shifting the level of units that were still just a pre-programmed twinkle in Duran Duran's eye.

All the hits are here. Don't You Want Me kicks off the collection, but is outshone by the perfect shiny prism of Open Your Heart. Love Action and Sound Of The Crowd sound as oddly immediate as they did then.

There was life post-Dare. Mirror Man acknowledges the Motown beat that was thrilling the kids of the day. The Lebanon suffers from some desperate sub-Big Country guitar, while Together in Electric Dreams (recorded with Moroder) has lasted the course better than the film it was written for. The Jam & Lewis-produced Human ranks amongst the best that the band ever recorded while the pretty recent All I Ever Wanted features the kind of squelchy bass-line that Peaches might envy.

The second CD is a set of remixes, and not the heinous desecration of source material you might expect. After all, recording as The League Unlimited Orchestra, producer Martin Rushent and the band were amongst the first to offer fully realised dancefloor / dub versions of their records as a commercial proposition.

The scary tech-house of Trisco's PopClash Sound Of The Crowd works well, and the two-step approach of the Riton Re-Dub is pleasingly off-the-wall. Keeping the vocal central (this is Phil talking after all), the rumbling mix of Love Action offers a new perspective without dismantling the polish of the original. Bizarrely though, the simple, clean synth lines of original prime-time League actually sound more contemporary than most of the mixes.

But do they really need updating? If you were looking for immortality back in '81, all you needed was your legend ascribed in thick black marker on the bag of a schoolgirl.

 

NME October 2003

Peter Robinson

Nirvana's was Smells Like Teen Spirit, Abba's was Dancing Queen. The Human League's is Don't You Want Me - the song which is regarded as their best, but doesn't begin to explain their real genius. The Human League have more than DYWM. So much more that your head will explode. They may have inspired the current electro wave, but the League's songs were not about haircuts.
Their songs were about love and hate, war and peace, and everything else only guitar bands are supposed to write about, and they did it all without a knowing wink or a post modern safety net.
Which is how they achieved real, proper, massive hits on both sides of the atlantic, and is why they are one of the greatest bands of all time.

10/10

 

Bang October 2003

CS Walker

Straddling both the nag-nag-nagging electro revivial and the more general 80s kitsch resurrection, come back The Human League with a double CD - one best of, one remix set.
Beyond the obvious ad-man party gems like 'Love Action' and 'Don't You Want Me' and the pioneering pomp precision of 'Being Boiled' and 'Empire State Human', it's perhaps the less familiar boo-hoo ballads like 'Louise' and 'Life On Your Own' which stand up, tall as a wall and twangy with bitter-sweetness. Jam & Lewis' production on 'Human' remains clean and lean.

Brightest of the mixes range from house (Majik J) to the disco (Groove Collision).
while The Strand's staccato stab at 'Open Your Heart' is somehow both pulse-groovy
and icy-goth. Like Soft Cell, Sheffield's lankiest really did put the human into the machine.

4/5

 

www.playlouder.com October 2003 new
OR - daft haircuts throughout the past two decades: The Buffers Guide To Phil Oakey. In which the viewer is taken on a journey through the finest pop music ever produced by folk from Sheffield, from the terribly sleazy (not like THAT, Pink Grease) 'Circus Of Death' to the ace 'All I Ever Wanted'. Oakey's barnet was best when he was hooking up with that Georgio bloke, whatver Jeres says to the contrary. The TOTP bonus stuff kicks ass. The Jules Holland bonus stuff does not.
 

Mojo November 2003

David Buckely

High praise at the beginning, 'must do better' in the middle, 'shows potential' at the end: so goes the school report of The Human League, and so goes this retrospective.
The plodding pop of Louise was light years in quality from the incredible material that opens this collection from the Dare! era. Don't You Want Me and Love Action are too of the finest pop songs ever, period, with The Sound Of The Crowd, Mirror Man and (Keep Feeling) Fascination not far behind.
All I Ever Wanted from 2001 promises better things, but the real fun comes at the end with two ancient cuts from the original band, the insane nursery rhyme that was Empire State Human, and the sound of the future that was Being Boiled. The quality control may have been wonky, but at their very best, nobody made pop product quite as tasty as this.
Comes with a bonus disc of remixes.

4/5

 

Mixmag November 2003

Why are they important?
The Human League were making dark and edgy electronic music back in '78. By '80 they were on Top Of The Pops, with singer Phil Oakey's angular hair and pierced nipple making him (and synths) incredibly desirable overnight.
Top three tunes?
'
Don't You Want Me' has long been accepted as one of the greatest singles of all time.
Way more twisted than it first seems: dark pop genius. The lyrics of '
The Lebanon' about the situation in the Middle East could have been written yesterday: "Who would have won when the soldiers have gone?" Hmm. 'Love Action' back in '81 had flashes of a new music called hip hop, but is dominated by a big bassline, flashing synths and metronomic drums. Sounds familiar? Yep - house music!
What's new?
Lots. A disc of remixes, including Trisco's mix of 'The Sound Of The Crowd', Fluke's take on 'Love Action' and Majik J's 'Don't You Want Me.
What's missing?
The band's first big-label single, 'The Dignity Of Labour' from '79 could have replaced the not terribly good '
Tell Me When' from '94
.

Trainspotter, eh?
Richard X's album samples the League's 'Being Boiled' on Liberty X's 'Being Nobody' and 'The Things That Dreams Are Made Of' with Kelis.
Verdict?
They're The Beatles of electronic pop and their influence and far-sightedness has kept them endlessly relevant. Go for this if you like electroclash but want to get involved with the original rude boys.

 

Uncut Magazine November 03 new
Greatest Hits (Again) plus recent acclaimed remixes
While everyone including the chaps who commission car ads and their wives remembers the vivid Abba-gone-robot delights of "Don't You Want Me" and "Love Action", the wry, implicitly Northern nostalgia of sadder songs like "Life On Your Own" and "Louise" grows more touching with each passing year.
A clutch of trendy, headache-inducing club remixes has revived the League's fortunes, an entire disc of which here includes fashionably stuttering retoolings from Groove Collision, The Strand and Fluke. Oddly, none of them seize upon the then-radical blue-prints of "Being Boiled" or "Empire State Human", but there's enough fascination amid the weeps'n'bleeps to keep feeling it.

****
 

www.allmediaguide.com

Andy Kellman

Putting together an adequate compilation of the Human League's best moments has proved to be a thankless task. What to include? (How about all of Dare?) Do you pay attention to the pre-coed version of the band? Do you pay any attention to anything that came after Crash? At any rate, the Very Best Of Virgin retrospective, released in 2003 with remastered sound, does a respectable job of paying mind to the group's best work through 2001's Secrets (the group's best album since Dare). All of the expected major hits — "Don't You Want Me," "Love Action," "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," "Human" — are provided, as are crucial early moments ("Being Boiled," "Empire State Human") and later singles that history, for the most part, has tried to forget ("One Man in My Heart," "Heart Like a Wheel"). Once again, 1980's Travelogue goes completely ignored; while that album didn't impact the charts all that much — even in the group's home country — the atypically abrasive "The Black Hit of Space" or even the non-album single "Marianne" would make significant additions. The bonus disc of remixes, mostly commissioned from the past couple years, doesn't add much — at the most, the remixes are mild curiosities; surely Virgin could've come up with a better way to entice consumers.

****

 

http://the-raft.com new

‘The Very Best Of The Human League’ – a double album featuring the most definitive Best Of tracklisting to date, along with the best of this year’s newly commissioned dance remixes have been collected onto one CD and is coming your way on 15 September 2003!

As The Human League currently enjoy an enormous resurgence of credibility with the heavy Sound Of The Crowd’, ‘Love Action’ and ‘The Lebanon’ mixed pure pop with cutting edge dance beats and sexy analogue keyboard riffs; and ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ and ‘Don’t use of samples in Richard X’s new album (‘Being Boiled’ on Liberty X’s ‘Being Nobody’ and Dare’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ on ‘Finest Dreams’ feat. Kelis), this double CD could not be better timed. Early tracks like
‘Being Boiled’ and ‘Empire State Human’ remind us just how innovative the band were; ‘The You Want Me’ will still have the most hardened trendsetters yelling the lyrics and waving their hands in the air at the end of the night.

Further proof to the League’s influence on dance music today, is the accompanying Remixes album. Compiled from a selection of the highly successful Vinyl Series of 12” and 10” released in April and May this year, plus 4 brand new remixes, these newly commissioned mixes from the crème of the cutting-edge electro and house scenes are both fascinating and respectful and have been enjoying extensive club and radio play. The fucked-up electro mix by Leicester’s The Strand has been a favourite down at Nag Nag Nag, whilst the more traditionally house tracks such as Majik J’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and Brooks’ ‘Love Action’ have been cutting a swathe at The End and Homelands. The brand new remixes for this CD from Fluke, Jimmy 19, Chamber’s Reproduced and Riton are without a doubt similarly dancefloor-bound.
 

www.remembertheeighties.com June 2004 new

It's finally here! The definitive collection of Human League's finest moments - all their best singles from the pre-Dare days - 'Being Boiled' (in original mono version!) and 'Empire State Human', right up to their umpteenth comeback single 'All I Ever Wanted' - a hugely underrated stomper of a dance tune that shows Phil Oakey has lost none of his classic pop/dance sensibilities.
It is not easy to pick out highlights from a back-catalogue like this. Nothing more can be said about their career defining anthem 'Don't You Want Me' - the best selling single of 1981, and deservedly so. I'd like to concentrate on the lesser known (but no less classic) singles like 'Lebanon', which proved they weren't afraid to experiment with their sound and use the odd power-chord and riff that dare I say even ZZ Top would be proud of!
'Life On Your Own' is a poignant mid-tempo tune about meeting an ex again. The bouncy 'Louise' also has a nice story to it, and another message is carried in the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced 'Human' - a No.1 hit in the States.
It is also good to see the inclusion of Phil Oakey's solo single collaboration with Giorgio Moroder 'Together In Electric Dreams' from the now incredibly dated movie of the same name. If this song doesn't put you in a good mood nothing will!
'Heart Like A Wheel' was another (1990) comeback single, as was 1995's sublime 'All I Ever Wanted'. It's a shame they could never quite keep the momentum going when they came back after a break, but with killer lead singles like these you are guaranteed to sell bucketloads of your Greatest Hits cds for many many years to come.
Considering how much technology has moved on since the early 80's all the songs on this album sound incredibly fresh and have aged extremely well. You can hear where the influence of so many of today's dance/trance acts came from - Tomcraft, Alice Deejay, Ian Van Dahl, Lasgo, the list could easily go on.
This is illustrated on the second cd of this package, which is what will tempt many long-time fans to buy this compilation, even if they own most of their albums. Eleven remixes of eight songs are included, most previously only available on vinyl. It has not required much imagination to bring The Human League's songs up to date as they already sound fresh, and about half of these remixes are actually worth the trouble they must have taken to produce. The best remix is track 4 - 'Love Action (Brooks Red Line Vocal Mix)'. This shows what can be done when most or all of Phil's vocals are retained and the same loop is not repeated over and over again like on many typical remixes.
Other highlights of the remix cd are track 5 - '(Keep Feeling) Fascination' which updates the sound without removing the distinctive synth riff, and an up to the minute sounding 'Empire State Human' which could almost be passed off as a Basement Jaxx tune rather than a 24 year old pop song! The first 'Sound Of The Crowd' remix is also definitely worth a listen.
Incidentally a DVD version of this 'Very Best Of' double cd is also available which as well as including their classic videos, also includes a few memorable TOTP performances. Who could forget their Christmas TOTP performance of 'Don't You Want Me' where a mischievous audience member manages to fill Joanne Catherall's mouth with silly string!
All in all a fitting compilation of a hugely important and influential band - that make me proud to share their home city of Sheffield!

 

www.rollingstone.com May 2005 new
Sarah Pratt

Despite frontman Phil Oakey's ridiculous lopsided hairdo and the presence of two northern England disco dollies who could neither dance nor sing, the Human League defined Eighties New Romantic cool. The band's 1982 trans-Atlantic smash, "Don't You Want Me" -- driven by devilish techno beats, Oakey's distinctive droll baritone, and its killer blue-collar refrain, "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar" -- established the League as leaders of the synth-pop revolution. The track was also the blueprint for 1981's
Dare, the League's best album and an underrated classic of the post-punk era. As the largely forgettable second part of this collection attests, the League never again lived up to Dare's prescience; their later brand of electro-trash doomed them to Eighties revival tours. Although the analog-synth grooves sound strangely primitive now, Very Best proves that the pop purism of early gems such as "The Sound of the Crowd" and "Love Action" will never be outmoded.

***