NME July 1990

Stuart Maconie

…Although ”Travelogue” is based much on trad rock/pop theory, it is the inventive, non-organic synth dressing that makes it a milestone. The sustained chords, the pre-programmed dialysis machine signatures and entirely unreal drum hooks are its qualifications. The synthesizer in untamed form is “Travelogue”s raison d’etre. Many potentially “art” conceits elevate what is a safe(ish) ten-song work to a more intriguing level – and the humour in Oakey’s lyrics defuses the intellectuality of the execution. “Get James Burke on the case” he deadpans on the aforesaid “The Black Hit Of Space” (a song that delights in sci-fi fun and sends it up simultaneously).

There is much snap and crackle here, but plenty of pop too – which points to even more commercial possibilities yet…


Q Magazine January 1995

More appealing attempt at previous marriage of cold synth experimentation and big-hearted melody, plumbs new heights of futuristic whimsy with The Black Hit Of Space (“Get James Burke on the case”). CD re-issue features classic cover of Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll. Full usage of “handclap” button.

**** March 2003 new

Jonathan Dean
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop's theme to the Doctor Who series first aired in 1963, and I'm willing to bet that some, if not all, of the future members of the Human League were watching and listening very closely. Those spine-tingling washes of synthesizers and alien metallic clangs must have seemed pretty mindblowing to a group of "blind youth" growing up in impoverished Sheffield. Lap dissolve to nearly 15 years later, and Phillip Oakey, Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh have formed The Future, soon to be rechristened the Human League. While fully reveling in the punk attitude and political urgency of their contemporaries, Human League's music always sounded a little different, their collective unconscious memory of that Doctor Who theme having pushed them towards the formation of an all electronic group. Not drums, bass and guitars augmented by synthesizers, mind you. Rather, The Human League were one of the first electronic purists; they used exclusively synthesizers and drum machines. What could be more standoffish and punk than that? From the beginning, Human League had a keen talent for uptempo songs and catchy melodies that set them apart from fellow Sheffield bands like Cabaret Voltaire and 23 Skidoo. The Human League were harboring a desire to make the world's greatest pop record. Electronic pop will never save the world, it's true, but listening to these Human League re-issues after 20 years of musical developments is an eye-opening experience. Pop music like the Human League's is resistant to musical modes and trends, and if you submit to its pleasures, it is timeless and perfect.

Travelogue is truly a transitional effort, containing both the Kubrickian, technology-obsessed sound that dominated Reproduction, and a healthy dose of the clever, infectious pop that would characterize Dare. The album kicks off with its best song, "The Black Hit of Space," a truly funny/scary song about a 12" from the future that sucks all of its listeners into a black hole. The music on this track is remeniscent of a lot of the formulaic industrial-style electro and EBM that dominated the 80's and early 90's. The Human League were pretty much the first on the block with this sound, before it had become a hopeless clich?. "Only After Dark" comes on like an electrop Beach Boys song, with its bouncy rhythm and fun vocal harmonies. The rest of the album is a hit-or-miss affair. Most of the tracks are flawlessly arranged and produced, but the songwriting is not nearly as strong as the songs on Reproduction or Dare. "Being Boiled" also makes an appearance on this album, but it has been reinvisioned as a hyperactive disco-fied Georgio Moroder track. There are seven extra tracks on this re-issue, most of them fairly disposable, but fun nonetheless. Who could resist the wackiness of their roboticized glam-rock medley of Gary Glitter's "Rock n' Roll" and Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing"? The League also pay homage to their childhood science fiction obsession on "Tom Baker," a tribute to everyone's favorite actor in the role of Doctor Who.

Mojo Magazine March 2003
...This is super-odd sci-fi pop....[With] more than a few moments of remarkable prescience…
4/5 2003 new

Originally released in 1980.Human League/Martyn Ware/Ian Craig Marsh/Philip Oakey: Ian Craig Marsh, Martyn Ware, Philip Oakey.Producers: Richard Manwaring; Human League.Recording information: 1979 - 1981.If your knowledge of the Human League begins and ends with smoothly commercial hits like "Don't You Want Me" and "Human," get ready for a shock. In the late '70s, the Human League were a much different proposition, an arty synth combo more in line with early Cabaret Voltaire, The Normal or even Throbbing Gristle. Furthermore, singers Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall weren't in the band yet, and most of the music was written by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who later left the group to form British Electric Foundation and Heaven 17.The band's second album, 1980's TRAVELOGUE, opens with a less primitive re-recording of their 1978 debut single, "Being Boiled," and continues in that frequently gloomy vein through oddities like "Black Hit of Space," "Gordon's Gin" and "Toyota City." The results are occasionally ponderous, but surprisingly, this album sounds less dated than many of the Human League's later hits.

2½/5 June 2004 new

Remastered and reissued with bonus tracks 'Travelogue' and 'Reproduction' are without doubt essential Human League items. Recorded in the pre-Dare years ('Reproduction' in 1979, and 'Travelogue' in 1980) this is literally the sound of electronic musical history being made, with all the pomp and self-importance necessary to embark on such an epic journey.
The later commercial sucess of the Human League seems to have drawn a distinct but un-necessary line between their pre-'Dare' and post-'Dare' output (both these albums predate Suzanne and Joanne joining the band for example, instead presenting the impressive - and near legendary - line-up of Phil Oakey, Ian Marsh, Philip Wright, and Martin Ware), and where there's no tracks here with the commercial catchiness of 'Don't You Want Me' there are plenty of lighter moments provided, especially in the extra tracks which include odd and sometimes - dare I say it - joyous cover versions of songs including Gary Glitter's 'Rock'N'Roll', The Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' not to mention a (are I say it again!) quirky instrumental tribute to Dr Who 'Tom Baker', and a fascinating recording of a studio conversation about the release of 'Reproduction' and the lofty intellectual ideals of the band!
If you already know these albums then you undoubtedly need them on CD, and if not and your Human League experience started with 'Don't You Want Me' then think of these albums as a great collection of electronic experimentations very much in the vein of 'Get Carter' and 'Do Or Die'... 'Travelogue' even includes a now-classic Human League single in the shape of 'Being Boiled'. There's nothing here to be intimidated by here, so come on in! 2005 new
Donnacha DeLong

The Human League are, of course, famed for the "Dare" album and THAT song, but less well know about them is that "Dare" was preceded by two albums in their own way as important as that synthpop masterpiece. Virgin have rereleased these two classics with a host of added rarities and extras to rectify that.

Developing out of their earliest days as The Future, The Human League Mark I had more in common with their fellow Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire and the Industrial Records bands than with polished synthpop Phil Oakey came to pioneer when the band split into Heaven 17 and The Human League Mark II. Even in the early days, though, the League had a stronger sense of melody than any of their contemporaries at the time and showed far more of a Kraftwerk influence than the likes of SPK or Throbbing Gristle. However, their sound was certainly not pop music, harsh minimal electronics with Oakey's voice far more droning than it would become.

Through both albums there's a strong thread of humour, whether it be the futurist nightmare about a new record (the now even more humorously out-dated 'The Black hit of space') on "Travelogue" or 'Empire state human' on "Reproduction", the classic track about wanting to be tall, tall, tall that's still regularly played in alternative clubs.

"Reproduction" is the more varied of the two as they had begun to experiment with numerous different styles and Phil's voice as shown on the version of 'You've lost that loving feeling', which is backed, in proper industrial style, with a sparse discordant sound that contrasts with the singing.

Much has been written about how influential these albums were, basically writing much of the template for the emergence of the various forms of dance music in early '80s Detroit. They're continued influence was most recently shown when Liberty X samples 'Being boiled' from "Travelogue" on 'Being nobody'. These two albums are, simply put, essential, so much so that I now have them on CD and vinyl. 2007 new

The guys learn to write some melodies, clearly stung by the non-song accusations that critics tried to belittle them with. Well, not even critics, the general public by and large. They still couldn't sell records but 'Travelogue' shows signs that the band would perhaps have movied in poppier directions anyway. Perhaps ( almost certainly ) not as drastically, but what can you do? 'Being Boiled' by the way is markedly different here from the far better known single version, that re-released in the wake of 'Dare', went top ten, the kind of success Human League could only hope and wish for in 1980. So, we get more little two/three note melodies swimming in atmosphere such as 'Only After Dark'. These guys were no Rick Wakemans and couldn't even play when they picked up their first synth way back in the years prior to the debut. 'Crow And A Baby' hints at Human League to come, but only hints. A whiff of 'Sound Of The Crowd' in a different universe. Only with knocking and obscure lyrics and generally a much less friendly tone. Ah, ha. But, 'Being Boiled'. The version here is just as scary, if not more so, than the single version. All sorts of odd noises and alarming noises, truth be told. The lyrics and vocal approach are exactly the same and it remains a stellar moment. In fact, I prefer this version. There, I've said it. Oh and 'Touchables' sounds like a hit song to my ears. That Human League were merely ahead of their time, and their non-image didn't help, is hardly here nor there. At least, it shouldn't be.

Words for a moment please for the opening tune 'Black Hit Of Space'. The music is fine, although not as striking as much of the debut. That's something the whole album shares actually. They seem to have sacrificed some of the texture for a small amount ( actually ) of additional melody. Yet, Phil Oakey is mostly to blame. I actively dislike the lyrics here about putting a record on, a record with a buck rodgers sleeve, etc etc. Well, the music sounds like Kraftwerk four years previously and the lyrics are irritating. So, a point deducted entirely because of the lyrics on 'Black Hit Of Space'. Another point deducted for the guys losing the texture and wonder of the debut. What does that make? 8/10? No it doesn't, because i'm also taking off half a point for the musically befuddled 'WXJL' that doesn't seem to know what type of song to be. Interesting really, because you do get the sense with 'Travelogue', a fine album actually overall, that Human League didn't quite know what type of band to be. Ian and Martyn would depart then following the release of this LP. With a tour to promote, Phil Oakey hired two female dancers who joined him on stage singing to a pre-recorded backing tape prepared by Martyn before he left. The future could hardly have looked less bright.