Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Human League - Travelogue

As mentioned earlier, I recently took a new look at the pop music of the early 80s. I will use this post to explain one particular quirk that was a driving force behind this recent investigation. I first heard Kraftwerk in 1992 after buying a cassette of “The Mix”, at a mall in Florida while on family holiday. Admittedly “The Mix” is not the best intro to Kraftwerk by any means, but I did not know the difference and it was easy to become totally immersed in this strange new music. Over the years I have been on many Kraftwerk binges, but this recent phase including a thorough exploration of some of the pop music that had been directly influenced by them.
Though their lineup and sound would drastically change by the time they started having big hits in the mid-eighties, The Human League started as a straight faced, Kraftwerk worshiping, electro-future pop outfit that was nearly peerless. Today I have been listening to their second album, 1980’s “Travelogue”, which is a stone classic of stark bunker funk and electro-pop. This stuff makes you feel like you are living on the set of Blade Runner. Songs like “Toyota City” show off the League’s talents at crafting memorable floating instrumental cyber soundtracks just like the best of John Carpenter, Brian Eno or the heroic Deutsch duo themselves. Most tunes are pure pop pleasure, yet every moment is anchored in a pool of dark synthetic textures brought back from future worlds. The only human element to this music is the thin veil of catchy melodies delivered by a dreary and haunted vocalist. His words are a steady stream of modern paranoia. “...Someone wants my job, it’s someone in this building, someone is spreading rumors, I don’t feel I can stay here…”
Though “Travelogue” may be my favorite Human League album, I also highly recommend checking out their debut, 1979’s “Reproduction”. Especially if you can find the remastered editions on Caroline records (released in 2003), because they have been so kind as to add some tasty instrumental bonus tracks of the finest in pulsing, minimal bunker synth vibes.

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