Monday, 5 August 2013

Cassette experiment day 125 - The Human League 'Crash'

For a little while in the early 1980s a small, experimental electronic band from Sheffield ruled the pop world. Serving their musical apprenticeships with a few scorching singles and EPs, The Human League produced two of the best electronic albums ever made ('Reproduction' and 'Travelogue'), then promptly divided, amoeba-like, to sprout forth a mark II version of The League, and the equally impressive Heaven 17.

In 1981, The Human League released their classic third album, 'Dare' and world domination became a real possibility.

But by the time they released their 1986 album, 'Crash' they were starting to languish in the metaphorical musical doldrums. Their 1984 album ‘Hysteria’ had received the dreaded 'mixed reception', which of course is music industry speak for 'not particularly entertaining' and what turned out to be an ill-fated change of production team was suggested. The gang were to jet off to Minneapolis and work with one of the hottest production teams of the era, knob twiddlers and slider pushers to no less than Janet Jackson, the two and only Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, truth be told, with the exception of the tremendous 'Human', a brilliant pop single with a trademark Human League monologue, almost everything. 'Human' aside, this is an absolute, solid gold (please say this with me in your best Sunderland accent) 'clunker'. Imagine a Janet Jackson album with Phil Oakey singing lead vocals and Susan and Joanne on backing vocals and you're only halfway towards appreciating how misconceived this whole thing is. Apparently the band themselves were even sent home part way through the recording process to allow Jimmy, Terry and their friends to push this stuttering jalopy over the finish line.

Special mention has to go to 'I need your loving', the opening track on side 2 which appears to be a Phil-fronted remix of 'What have you done for me lately' made famous by the Janet, the aforementioned ‘Queen of wardrobe malfunctioners’ and extra special mention to the lowest point on the album, and probably also their careers, the atrocious ‘Swang’. It's a track that's only four and a half minutes long, but if you'd still like to take a listen after all that I've said then I guarantee it'll probably be the longest four and a half minutes of your life!

In the interests of fairness, and by way of a right of reply of sorts, tomorrow we’ll be featuring The Human League’s 1995 album ‘Octopus’ as our experiment subject.

Label – Virgin Records

Year – 1986

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