I have a feeling Fran may use the word repetitive in her review of synthpop album Dare by The Human League. And she’d be right. Opening track The Things That Dreams Are Made Of is certainly that, repeating the phrase “these are the things” thirty three times. Listing the things that dreams are made of and a rather dull tune add to the monotony. I will point out now, bad opening tracks tend to taint my opinion of a record.
Things improve with the following track, Open Your Heart. The synth chords create a pleasant, futuristic, space sound and the vocals and music are much more melodic than the previous track with some cool whirling thrown in for good measure. The tone darkens a little with the sinister bassline of The Sound Of The Crowd and spooky instrumental section of Darkness.
The middle few songs are disappointing, and I think the reason is they try to be too dramatic. Oakley’s vocals come across as cold and flat, especially on the chorusses: lyrics like ‘run for your life’ don’t fit. Do Or Die contains a strange mélange of ingredients that include a sort of samba beat, a few simple repetitive keyboard tunes and some strange clicking. It sounds a little like someone is trying out all the different settings on the keyboard. Get Carter is a terrible interlude, that highlights the flaw in the instrument (casio VL-1) – it doesn’t sound natural enough to pull of delicate, fragile beauty. A wind instrument would work much better. I Am The Law is ridiculously over-dramatic, and you get the feeling the band think this is their peak, when actually it’s their lowest point. (I Am The Low you could read it as!). Again, the chorus is repeated to the point of becoming annoying.
Oh how things change with the last few songs.
Seconds is perhaps my favourite song on the album. Yes it has only one real line; yes his voice is cold and computer-like; yes it’s got all those things I complained about before. But the difference is that here it all fits with the song. There are those pleasant, futuristic, space chords The Human League pull off so well, with some extra space special effect noises added later on. Oakley’s singing is controlled, pausing to great effect and there is a great thumping beat driving the song. Love Action is a dancey pop song, and more interesting musically and lyrically than most of what we’ve heard on the album.
The pinnacle of the album is undoubtedly Don’t You Want Me, a song which sounds quite different to the rest of the record. The witty, emotional lyrics and male-female duet structure make the song feel a lot more human: the passionate delivery of lines such as “I still love you” adds to this. The instantly recognizable synth line pulsates through the track like a heartbeat, with all the song’s components coming together to make a true pop classic.
This may be a landmark album as it marks the move from experimental synth to more melodic synthpop, but it’s very early stages. Only towards the end of the record do we see what the band are really capable of.