Thursday, September 01, 2016
The Human League: Reproduction (1979)
The first record from the Human League--heavily influenced by Kraftwerk--is a sort of synth masterpiece that sounds little like their later commercial concessions. This is a cold, dark, austere, detached, and robotic piece of work, featuring only vocals and synthesizers. The whole record sounds synthetic, maybe even like what one might have anticipated future space age music to sound like. At this point, there were not yet any female singers in the band, and they seemed entirely disinterested in writing a commercial hit, like Don't You Want Me?
There was a time when I wondered if the guitar was dead and that all future music would be synth and keyboard-based. Who needed drums, I wondered? I've revised that opinion, but this record is all about that direction. It would serve as a great soundtrack to a documentary of failed futurist visions of the world.
There are weird hooks, only limited concern with melody, and it offers very little for the average pop listener to grasp onto. But, this chilling record (and their second effort) is a kind of genius and it is far better than the later stuff. Just two years later, the band moved into more accessible territory, but, by then, the band had an almost completely new lineup, so they were really something entirely new. You might say that they sold out, but I guess they proved something on the first two records (and most of the third) and they felt the need to reinvent themselves.
The most bizarre track on the record has to be the their cover version of You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, a track first recorded by the Righteous Brothers, and written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. This is the most melodic and accessible tune on the record.
There is also something very unsettling about the cover, which features naked babies, exposed genitals included. I really wonder how that would fly today. I'm sure it would be censored.
My copy is an original UK pressing. This record was never released in Canada in any format.