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.
September 2003 new
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.
September 2003 new
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
Phil Oakey and
the ladies have had a small resurgence of late thanks to the wonders of
sampling with Liberty X
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….
September 2003 new
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'
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
and icy-goth. Like Soft Cell, Sheffield's lankiest really did put the human
into the machine.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
about the situation in the Middle East could have been written yesterday:
"Who would have won when the soldiers have gone?" Hmm. 'Love
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 -
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.
The band's first big-label single, 'The Dignity Of Labour' from '79 could
have replaced the not terribly good 'Tell
album samples the League's 'Being Boiled' on Liberty X's 'Being Nobody' and
'The Things That Dreams Are Made Of' with Kelis.
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
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
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
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
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
‘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
www.remembertheeighties.com June 2004
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
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!
May 2005 new
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
their later brand of electro-trash doomed them to Eighties revival tours.
Although the analog-synth grooves sound strangely primitive now,
proves that the pop purism of early gems such as "The Sound of the Crowd"
and "Love Action" will never be outmoded.