Music » Critics' Picks

The Human League

Monday, August 11; Pageant


The fact that this show is a co-production of 104.1 The Mall and VH1 Classic tells you everything you need to know about the Human League's current standing: '80s-nostalgia fodder. But a strong case can be made that the Human League were electronic innovators. Their early singles and first two albums reveal a raw, experimental outfit that owed much to Kraftwerk, Suicide and even Throbbing Gristle. By 1981, they had a new lineup, a megahit album in Dare and a more streamlined, poppy sound. You know the story from there -- the waitress in the cocktail bar, et cetera.

The past couple of years have been kinder to the League. Caroline Records re-released Dare, along with the earlier Reproduction, and Travelogue. The Golden Hour of the Future, a compilation of demos and early recordings, turned up on a UK import. NYC-based March Records issued a tribute album, Reproductions, featuring the likes of Stephin Merritt and Momus. Moreover, thanks to the trendier "electro" moniker, synth-pop is back in style, with acts such as Ladytron and the Faint mining the League's early analog keyboards and drum programs for inspiration.

The Human League could do a better job exploiting this interest -- maybe a guest spot at All Tomorrow's Parties or a deal with a prestige indie, such as Warp. As it is, the band has a greatest-hits compilation due out on CD and DVD, and the current live set reflects this fact. You'll hear the hits, a few songs from their most recent CD (2001's Secrets) and a few choice vintage tracks, such as "Being Boiled." Expect a solid show, if not necessarily an innovative one.

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