Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Human League - Dare

I Love 1981 - pt 21
Well it's late Saturday afternoon in November 1981 so what better way to get the party started then getting all tarted up for the night whilst listening to the sounds of The Human League's breakthrough album Dare.
Like Speak & Spell there's already been so much written about Dare - seminal synth-pop album etc., especially in the wake of the recent electro-revival (La Roux et al) and an overall re-evaluation of the genre, now taht almost all pop music is made with electronic instruments.
Band leader and lead vocalist Phil Oakey has often described it as 'over-rated' but there's a little false modesty going on there as it still remains their most successful album to date and their most exploited during the live performances which they still seen very fond of doing. No Human League gig could ever be complete without a rendition of Don't You Want Me, and other Dare racks such as The Sound of the Crowd, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of, or even Darkness which have all recently been performed live.
Shiny synth-pop aside, what ultimately clinches it for the album is its strange mixture of upbeat pop (although still not in the region of the Mode's 'ultra-pop') and darker moments as in I Am the Law and Seconds. Dare managed to carefully tread between the two creating something for everyone: Darkness is a perfect sing-along pop song yet deals with one of our deepest fears, Do or Die will have us up and dancing yet its sci-fi scenarios ("alsatians fall unconscious at the shadow of your call..") are at once chilling and just a bit daft (cf. earlier League tracks such as The Black Hit of Space). Love Action (I Believe in Love) may have one of the catchiest riffs of them all yet deals with the pain and suffering of broken relationships we can somehow all relate to. And this is Phil talkin'.

Considering all that it almost seems a shame that the cheesy yet evergreen Don't You Want Me has to close it all, although it was in fact deliberately tacked on at the end as a 'joke' song. It's a complete pseudo-American soap-opera scenario (Oakey was inspired by A Star is Born for the lyric) which translated so well into the video-with-a-stroy-line format which was just coming into vogue.

All homage of course to the late Martin Rushent's production and overall technical contribution, not least the introduction of the Linn drum machine which finally gave the League, and electronic pop, the programmable beats they so strived for in earlier years (I nearly cried when I first heard Love Action - I thought they'd used 'real' drums..).
It was still early days though: "The programming took hours and hours and we were constantly battling the primitive and unreliable technology," said Rushent in 2008. But no matter: "I spent 28 hours straight writing and programming the brass parts for Hard Times and another 24 hours recording them. Didn’t mind a bit, had a wonderful time."..which is exactly what ultimately transpires on Dare.
So just put on your best party gear, plenty of jewellry and make up (men too), add your voice and have a wonderful eighties-time to the sounds of Dare.

For more on Dare and its making, see The Black Hit of Space's excellent 30th Anniversary Special.

No comments: