The Human League
The Very Best of The Human League (Ark 21/Virgin)
by Chris Adams
Ahhh… I remember the first time I heard these electro-pop boffins. If I recall correctly, I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar… that much is true…. Actually, no it isn’t. In fact, I was about thirteen or fourteen and was far too deep into my treacherous Adam and the Ants fixation to really give a crap about these guys. Same went for Gary Numan. The image of grown men wearing one-piece rubber flightsuits and teatowels wrapped around their necks somehow rubbed me the wrong way. (Why the image of a grown man – the aforementioned Mr. Ant – tarted up to look like Marlene Dietrich wrestling Napoleon in a ruffled shirt factory didn’t faze me in the least is one for the ages. Anyway…) But I distinctly recall “Don’t You Want Me,” The Human League‘s watershed smash, being blasted over the airwaves about 80 times a day during the summer of ’81. And, upon listening to it in 1998, I gotta tell you, it’s not a bad little tune, in a detached, refrigerated, chrome-plated kinda way. In fact, that goes for most of this album. The majority of the stuff is very accessible and poppy, and the songwriting’s pretty strong – especially on tracks like “Mirror Man,” “The Lebanon,” and “Fascination.” Hearing them all lined up side-to-side, you’d think they’d have been bigger. Go figure. Granted, some of that piss-poor glossy “futurist” ’80s production is pretty laughable – a lot of the songs have that bleepy “the stark soundscape of the space age – now!” quality that, in retrospect, sounds like reject soundbites from a sub-par episode of The Jetsons. But what the hell? Any band who can open a song with the lyrics “…listen to the voice of Buddha” (“Being Boiled”) has something on the ball. And the album comes with audio liner notes, which actually does strike me as kinda futurist. A nice little retrospective of an underrated band whose entire catalog you’d never bother to pick up. Over and out, captain. Bleep.
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