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The Human League
Dare Tina Winter , June 5th, 2012 07:58

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It sounds almost like a fairytale. When after two albums of not-very-well selling-yet-rather-ace albums, the musicians decide to leave you and the projectionist high and dry ahead of a tour, so you pop down to a local disco and see a couple of schoolgirls, and after convincing their parents you’re not a pervo, ask them to join and then a year later you’re the biggest pop group on Earth. But that, in essence - and a bit of help from then box-fresh technology, a  couple of extra members and a futuristic production - was what happened to The Human League.

In the space of twelve months, they’d gone from spending the festive period in the studio trying to work out 'Boys & Girls', to being the Christmas No.1. Within the first six months of 1982 they’d crack the states and reach No.1 there too. And it was all down to Dare, the most perfect album ever made.

While feeling reasonably miffed that Gary Numan and OMD were stealing their thunder, Oakey constructed a pop group that could duke it out with the likes of the then fresh new Bucks Fizz and then-waning Abba, a perfect synth-based rival to the colossal screaming pirates that was Adam & The Ants, and with Joanne Catherall and Susanne (Susan Ann) Sulley, they looked like a wonky Sheffield Arts Lab Chic.

A string of perfect singles unsurpassable in modern music bugled what to expect – the boom crash, pissing-about-with-a-fancy-new-Linn-drum-machine call to arms 'Sound Of The Crowd', to the electric arrival of the perfect synthesis of 'Love Action (I Believe In Love)' and the thrilling urgent new-pop of 'Open Your Heart' all came ahead of Dare’s release, and all seemed a fair distance from 'Being Boiled' (which also became a huge hit in early 1982 on the back of Dare’s success, making the chart rundowns things of actual wonder back then). Of course, there’s also 'Don’t You Want Me', a 'Star Is Born' reworked, the famous lover spurned tale, elegantly bellowed along to at school reunions and hen night karaokes for the last 30 years.

Beyond the singles, there’s the broad sweep of magnificence that is opener 'Things That Dreams Are Made Of' signifying the album’s intent, with Phil sinisterly intoning about ice cream; or portraying Judge Dredd in 'I Am The Law', which could’ve come from the first two albums had it wanted to sound like it was recorded down a well; 'Do Or Die', with its digital congas and preposterously brilliant lines like "alsatians fall unconscious at the shadow of your call"; 'Darkness' invents electro goth several years ahead of the self-harming set getting in on the act. 'Seconds', which addresses Lee Harvey Oswald about killing JFK; the Casiotone re-make of Get Carter. It was a gleaming new dawn for The Human League, representing both their past and future in a gloriously glossy deluxe package. It had enough weird for the old fans, it had plenty of whistleable tunes for the new.

This remaster also features an additional selection of original 12 inch versions and instrumentals, as well as the immortal 'Hard Times', with a second disc containing the import-only Fascination mini-album tracks alongside the one-off single 'Mirror Man', which is as good a place to round off the handful of years they genuinely had the world at their feet. I’d probably have thrown in 1982’s remix album 'Love And Dancing' into this package too, as sadly it’s unlikely we’ll get to hear Martin Rushent’s remake of the entire album now (which he was working on up until his death in 2011).

Whatever. What Dare ultimately represents is a band at the peak of its powers. The original ten tracks puts this up there with the greats, and should be in every household regardless of what format or version it is. It is not just complex, it’s multiplex in the pleasure it’s given over the last four decades. It is genuinely amazing.

Post-Punk Monk
Jun 5, 2012 12:47pm

As much as I live for "Travelogue," this was an undeniably magnetic period for The League. A time when each new 12" single was like a gift from above. Envy me because I bought them all on import as soon as they came out, months in advance of them getting signed to A+M in The States. I feel sorry for anyone who bought The Human League on domestic pressings. It was exciting to have my little secret hit #1 six months later - and without the sort of compromise that afflicted Simple Minds or OMD.

I can't forget the first time I heard "Don't You Want Me" on college radio. I was airchecking onto cassette and I rewound that tape and played that song for a solid hour afterward! I had that album as soon as I could grab it as an import. I always thought the track was a case of Phil revisiting the theme of "I Don't Depend On You" which is perhaps why he was reluctant to see it as the globe-conquering single that it obviously was. Good thing that Virgin worked that action like the pros they were at the time. You're right about how it walks a fine line between what the band was and what it was in the process of becoming - most expertly. And kudos on brilliantly working in the flexidisc quote!

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For more ruminations on the Fresh New Sound Of Yesterday

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Jun 6, 2012 10:02am

In reply to Post-Punk Monk:

I agree to the quality of the LP with the exception of "Don't You Want Me" which I still consider rubbish 30 years later.

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matt lindsay
Jun 6, 2012 10:33am

In reply to :

Absolutely one of the best. And I beg to differ. Don't You Want Me remains pop's most perfect soap operas.It has survived being endlessly manhandled at countless hen nights and karaoke machines. It still sounds poignant, vaguely sinister & utterly addictive.Its a shame they ditched Rushent shortly after.

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Count Screwloose
Jun 6, 2012 6:58pm

Last time that DARE was reissued in the US, it was joined by LOVE AND DANCING together on the same disc.

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cityhobgoblin
Jun 7, 2012 10:58am

Far from 'the musicians' deciding to leave Phil high and dry, they were pushed out by manager Bob Last. Hilariously, their pay off was 1% of the gross of the next album released under the Human League name, which given the sales of the first two albums they probably imagined would buy them a couple of bags of crisps each and a bottle of pop to share. That album was 'Dare' of course...

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Joe A
Jun 7, 2012 11:00am

In reply to Post-Punk Monk:

Good call on 'I don't depend on you'. People forget about the early Human Leagues foray into disco.Always thought it was ripe for a cover version.

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Joe A
Jun 7, 2012 11:00am

In reply to Post-Punk Monk:

Good call on 'I don't depend on you'. People forget about the early Human Leagues foray into disco.Always thought it was ripe for a cover version.

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Jeffrey Chapman
Jun 11, 2012 5:26pm

Thirty years later, this album stands up just as nicely as it did in 82. I find myself tapping an air-synth along to 'Seconds' each time I hear it.

Fantastic, fantastic work.

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Terry
Mar 13, 2014 9:32pm

I wonder how many people got your flexidisc reference? 8-)

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