www.electricity-club.co.uk January 2011
Produced by Dean Honer and Jarrod Gosling of I MONSTER, the nucleus of Philip Oakey, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall are ably supported by long standing sidemen Neil Sutton, Rob Barton and David Beevers. Night People and Electric Shock have already been showcased live with the latter sounding like what would have happened if Philip Oakey had actually recorded with GIORGIO MORODER in 1977 instead of 1984. And in the early days when it was Phil talkin', he always remarked how THE HUMAN LEAGUE never aspired to be KRAFTWERK but actually wanted to be DONNA SUMMER! With the haunting tones of 1995's These Are The Days lurking in the background, Electric Shock cleverly fuses past, present and future.
Never Let Me Go is a marvellous opener which sees an auto-tuned Susanne Sulley take lead vocals on a piece of dancey electro that sounds like CLIENT gone funky. The excellent Get Together has poptastic potential and launches into a classic League chorus with plenty of lovely synth action while Credo 's closer When Stars Start To Shine is a fun, off-beat number which rhythmically echoes THOMAS DOLBY's Europa And The Pirate Twins . Alongside Philip's deadpan chants of "keep on moving!", this ditty even sounds in places like their former sparring partners HEAVEN 17!
Credo is a welcome return for THE HUMAN LEAGUE and will be enjoyed by all lovers of electronic pop who have waited a long time for the realisation of this lively opus. So all you Night People, "listen to the sound, there is movement all around!"
Mojo January 2011
Get around town for the Sheffield synth-sybarites' 10th album.It's been nine years since The Human League's previous LP, and in the interim they've shared queasy '80s nostalgia fest stages with Kim Wilde, Level 42 and A Flock Of Seagulls. Will their return to recording prove their relevance, three decades after 1981's epochal, synapse-sparkling Dare!? The hi-gloss but uneven Credo only partially convinces. Unhappily, autotuned opener Never Let Me Go could scare off the non-League faithful all by itself, while Single Minded has a none-more-stern Phil Oakey apparently advocating the Swinging Lifestyle - the effect is pure Alan Partridge. Elsewhere, however, daffy Downtown esque raving single Night People and dramatic death vignettes Privilege and Sky demonstrate the potency of the group's populist eccentricity, and it's hard to baulk when the rocking Get Together calls for unity. There remains the suspicion, though, that a call to Dare! producer Martin Rushent could be an idea next time.
Not, of course, that there is ever really a bad time for a new album from The Human League, a band who did as much for British pop in the late Seventies and early Eighties as pretty much anyone. It’s just a shame to see an act once described by David Bowie as the future of pop music sound slightly out of date.
The problem, of course, lies not entirely with the League: everybody is doing electronic pop these days, from Rihanna to David Lynch and the competition has upped the ante considerably.
Compared to the best Girls Aloud records or Rihanna’s thrillingly electric Only Girls (In The World), to take just two examples, Credo doesn’t quite cut the mustard. The production (courtesy of I Monster) is good, if not great; the tunes are OK, rather than brilliant and the lyrics a touch forced.
The result is like a latter period Pop Shop Boys album: listening to Credo you feel it is great to have the band still around and sounding recognisably themselves but you probably won’t return to it too often
The younger boyfriend of one pipes up. "They sound like Scissor Sisters."
Musically things haven’t changed a great deal since the 1980s, with a mix of the harder Mk1 and poppier post-Heaven 17 sounds. There's a lot of fairly DIY synth-work that reminds you of when technology first liberated musical people who didn’t really play instruments. The analogue synthesisers have warmth and charm, the dance beats are insistent, and miraculously Phil Oakey’s baritone and the girls' (Sulley and Catherall’s) vocals haven’t worn a single inch in 30 years. Although it comes pretty close, Credo narrowly avoids being straight nostalgia by dint of its sheer commitment and honesty. Oakey is, after all, such a character that it’s no effort to believe that he’s really still involved in the clubs and bars of Sheffield and Leeds.
The album is best where the narrative is strongest, and the standout track is “Sky”, a story about an alien. Other highlights are love song “Never Let Me Go” and “Privilege”, one of the odder recent songs to be about financial greed. Throughout the album the songs tread a nice line between dance and pop. And yet, despite everything, it is just difficult to imagine exactly what kind of audience would really go for a Human League album in the second decade of the 21st century. Northern clubs, perhaps. Gay clubs, almost certainly. But despite its engaging manners and winning moments, this album is unfortunately likely to end up, like Secrets a decade ago, as a bit of a curio.
Sad to tell, Night People is by far the best offering on Phil, Joanne and Susan’s new disc, the ninth under the brand name. Lyrics like “Gather up your skirts and trousers/ Put on your best frocks and blouses” are sadly unmatched elsewhere and neither is the reference to Dare’s Sound of the Crowd echoed with such irresistible specificity by any of the other tracks. Younger Sheffield collaborators I Monster have ransacked the entire lobby press of aged synth sounds for the production of the disc, but missing is a Jo Callis-like tunesmith.
So we feel actual physical pain
even writing that the new Human League album is just sort of ok. It sounds
like them, mostly (there’s a bit of dodgy auto-tune effect on the first
track we could do without). They have the luxury of having sounded in their
heyday exactly like most bands try and sound now. So that element of the
album is fine. It’s just that the songs aren’t quite good enough. Oh god,
this is so upsetting. The songs are fine. They’re just. Well, they’re just
not The Sound Of The Crowd, Love Action (I Beleive), Mirror Man, Louise,
Open Your Heart, Human or Tell Me When. You get the idea with that.
Apparently little has changed: a characteristically manifesto-like title, nocturnal themes (Into the Night, Sky, Night People) and Oakey exchanging call/response vocals with Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall across the throbbing crunch of electronics. They swing between Being Boiled and Heart Like a Wheel within every song, while seldom matching those heights.
But even latter-day League albums produced a stand-out track, a trend continued here with Never Let Me Go: a pop song The Saturdays would be proud of. Oakey's voice bubbling beneath Sulley’s lead vocal will wrongfoot fans expecting a return to the League’s earlier sound. It’s part of a strong opening trio: as pioneers of the remix album (check out 1982’s Love and Dancing), the crisp, vaguely acid synth line of Night People is cries out for an instrumental. But things soon wobble. Oakey provoked the dreaded Marmite phrase before it was coined, but he’s never so thoroughly explored the fine line between droll and dour.
The future apparently annoys him; Breaking the Chains has a light touch, but Privilege is like listening to a cabbie supporting the losing team, while on Get Together, Oakey just sounds miserable. Nonetheless, elsewhere it’s hard not to see a wry smile behind the wisdom of "keep your cornflakes in the freezer".
Their avoidance of guitars, drums or strings is admirable, although Single Minded uses machines to write a song only to discover they’re not plugged in. It’s a track that will send detractors of electronica into spasms of told-you-so satisfaction.
At times Credo sounds like The Human League of today trying to be The Human League of the past, which makes for uncomfortable listening. That said, it’s probably still better than it has any right to be, given the time between the group’s hits and their missing out on chart positions nowadays. They remain more influential than influenced, but this album adds little to their reputation. Although 10 years old itself, Secrets is a far stronger starting point for anyone interested in the 21st century phase of this classic band’s career.
Secondly, and more pertinently, as the whimsy of opener and lead single Never Let Me Go introduces itself with camp electro-disco there's the impact of Dare and the revolutionary remix album Love And Dancing, it still sounds completely fresh and absolutely The Human League. So either, A) The Human League pushed the boundaries and sat ahead of their time by three decades or B) - and unfortunately the more likely answer - commercial music production has gone nowhere since the '80s.
To be completely fair it should be noted that pop music has chosen to return to this sound for many very good reasons, for Credo successfully blends lullabies and a street toughness not heard since their former, industrial noise line-up. Once over the initial shock of Night People's "Gather up your skirts and trouser/Put on your best frocks and blouses" and "Time to go out form your houses/Must we creep round like the mouses?" couplets Night People is an enjoyably intense dance tune. Admittedly there is a certain charm to lyrics that have the eloquence of a primary school 'what I did in my summer holiday' presentation but anyway.
Into The Night stands out as a strong Motown meets Orange Juice meets, well, The Human League track. Starting with a groove even Love And Dancing mastermind Martin Rushent (similarly Dare's producer) would tolerate, this blends beats into a clunking love song that ascends and resolves itself with grace. As Fairlights, Omni-Qords and a world of seemingly analogue synthersizers seem to dance with abandon, they answer Oakey's question "Do you turn left, or do you turn right?/Back into bed, or into the night?" Credo is evidently written to soundtrack the mysteries of lost, long evenings.
As well shading the romance of nights out, it spotlights the pitfalls. Egomania marches to staggered, sharp vocal lines that escalate into a world where confidence gets swallowed ("Dazzling like a diamond in the Sun/Egomania") and clarity gets lost. It's a quandary well illustrated by strict tempo and rhythmic aggression, even with some Autechre-esque idly bits to melt the end of the song.
Credo is a welcone return for The Human League, and there's a sense of satisfaction in having them release new material that's song focused. A band has never documented the very cocktail of emotions stirred by love and dancing as well as The Human League have and, as Single Minded states, "Maybe I'm wrong but I'm bound to stay/Single minded, night and day/Give me a kiss and walk away." It surmises the public's relationship with this band, who've patiently waited for their audience to inevitably return. As the disco beats of Electric Shock kick, they plant another surprise. Beguiling.
Maybe it’s because The Human
League were always ahead of their time but these do actually sound pretty
fresh, even if there isn’t anything anywhere near the calibre of classics
such as Don’t You Want Me and Love Action.
Almost the first sound on the Human League's first album in a decade is the voice of Susan Sulley, AutoTuned to robotic numbness. Hearing a band who once personified futurism being reduced to following last year's sonic fad isn't edifying. Luckily, it turns out to be an aberration, and, for the most part, Credo sounds like nobody but the Human League: electronics gurgle and whirr, and some fairly memorable melodies surge and flow. The production is sleeker than before, but that's progress – and it never overrides the League's professional-amateurs charm. But despite the plethora of lovely moments – such as Night People's call to arms: "Gather up your skirts and trousers, put on your best frocks and blouses/ Time to go out from your houses" – it feels like a collection of songs rather than an album. Something – call it a heart – is missing.
http://electronicrumors.com March 2011
This coming Monday it’s finally here! The Human League’s ninth studio album, and the first since 2001’s ‘Secrets’, is released. It’s been a long time coming for League fans, and it’s been worth the wait.
In 1981 The Human League released ‘Dare’, the single greatest SynthPop album ever recorded, that was three decades ago. Three Decades! And in their generation spanning career, Phil, Susan & Joanne have never strayed from the path, never pandered to fashion (were they making Brit Pop album in the mid 90’s? No!), they are an ElectroPop act. They evolve as electronic music evolves, they can experiment with electronic music and songwriting, they can collaborate with contemporary artists, but they remain ambassadors for ElectroPop. While Depeche Mode were trying to be a Blues Rock band and Gary Numan was saying a prayer before every bedtime that he would wake up being Trent Reznor. The Human League stand proud as The Human League, the worlds greatest SynthPop band.
So, to ‘Credo’. The ElectroPop landscape is vastly different from the last time The League released an album, the last five years have been an amazing time to be an ElectroPop fan. From the explosion of Indie-Electro, the return of intelligent Electronic Pop to our charts to the awesomeness that is Dreamwave and the Minimal Synth scene growing and growing, there is so many talented ElectroPop artists pushing the boundaries of the genre these days how does ‘Credo’ compare?
Very well actually. ‘Credo, is probably the most ‘The Human League’ sounding album The Human League have made since the mid-80’s. Phil Oakey is as his droll finest. As with the best League tracks there are strong narratives that run throughout many of the tracks and, from a purely songwriting style point of view, this album is really close to ‘Dare’. But it’s not just in Oakey’s vocals that ‘Credo’ harkens back to THL of old, the synth sounds used over the whole eleven tracks conjure imaginations of early 80’s TOTP. The middle section of the album, tracks like ‘Into The Night’, ‘Egomaniac’, ‘Single Minded’ and ‘Electric Shock particularly have classic analog lead lines very reminiscant of the singles of The League’s pop explosion
So, if the songwriting sounds like classic League and the sounds on the album are 1981 approved then does ‘Credo’ sound dated? Well, not really, and that’s down to the production, and the drums. Imagine The Human League of old with contemporary dance drums and modern, slick, production techniques and that’s pretty much ‘Credo’. To be honest I couldn’t ask for anything else from THL
Highlights of the album, for me, include the new single ‘Never Let Me Go’, the closest The Human League are going to get to DiscoPop, which I think should have been the lead single over ‘Night People’. If ‘Egomaniac’ isn’t the next single I will eat my Pork Pie hat, it’s classic League, call and response vocals between Phil and the girls, a dry wit and a silky smooth sing-along chorus. ‘Electric Shock’ is another definite winner, pure Synthetic Pop that kicks into Acid craziness in the chorus.
If loved The Human League, but hated it when they tried to be R&B, or Trance, ‘Credo’ is 100% for you!
Raw stats will get you nowhere. What matters is that the I Monster team have cooked up a production that matches our expectations of a League LP. And the single "Night People" is an exuberantly anthemic HL classic.
4. ‘Into the
‘When the Stars Start to Shine’