Synth vets’ vital beginnings and weaker follow-ups.
While Phil Oakey and a reupholstered line-up took The Human League in a more op-minded direction, fellow founding members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh- initially, at least-went down a more serious route when they left to form Heaven 17. Consequently, this collection is less packed with hits than any League collection might be, and the group’s later material hasn’t aged well.
Their 1981 debut Penthouse And Pavement remains the high watermark, a subversive and often cynical concept album (of sorts), released as Thatcher and Reagan gained a tighter grip on the world. Songs such as (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang and the title track spoke to the greed and brutality of the times, but dressed their messages in some nifty synth beats.
1983’s The Luxury Gap was more bombastic, best exemplified by the near-operatic Temptation, though the more layered Let Me Go and Come Live With Me are also more subtly atmospheric. Vocalist Glenn Gregory played and increasingly creative role on subsequent albums How Men Are and Pleasure One, but the tracks included here struggle to impress when sequenced alongside their more powerful predecessors.