Album the first from The Human League, the Sheffield synth-pop heroes. Released in 1979, it wasn’t (initially) a hit, but it does present the fully-formed sound of the band who would soon dominate the charts and play a part in defining the sound of the 80’s. LP reissue on Universal, complete with the original, bizarrely disturbing sleeve art.
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In 1979 the Human League were a really bizarre proposition. Their early 'Dignity of Labour' EP had been a fantastic tour de force of instrumental electronica about a billion years ahead of it's time but at the time of 'Reproduction' they were welding their electronics to Phil Oakey's baritone vocals and creating unsettling pop music with jarring chord changes exemplified perfectly in the opening 'Almost Medieval'. When I was a child I was always too frightened to play 'Circus of Death' (also the B side of their classic 'Being Boiled') but listening to it as a slightly less spooked adult it's a fantastic spiralling piece of electronic pop that does that fantastic Human League of being both futuristic and perhaps knowingly daft. 'The Word Before the Last' showcases perfect Kraftwerk like electronics with Northern kitchen sink drama added courtesy of Oakey's half spoken monologue.
There's only really one sign of pop greatness here and that's from the superbly ridiculous 'Empire State Human' in which over a stunning burst of rabid electronics Oakey sings the insistent , preposterous chorus of 'I want to be tall, tall as a wall'. Little did he know that in 2016 the Stone Roses would sing lyrics even worse but with music this infectious and with a truly madcap synth 'solo' plonked on top this is the early League on top of their game.
A lot of the B side is taken up with a stodgy, disconcerting take on 'You've Lost that Loving Feeling' which i presume was plonked on in the chance that it might have given them a novelty hit. Sooner or later they would write their own hits and this album showcases the experiments that started them on the path to pop heaven.
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- Reproduction by The Human League
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