The Human League

by Evan Phillips

“The past, present and future of pop music”. A bold statement that The Human League describe themselves with on their website. Some might take this to heart; after all, how can a band who are so closely linked with the bombastic pop of the 80’s possibly see themselves as “futuristic”? But unlike most of their new romantic contemporaries - Duran Duran, ABC - The Human League always managed to push their own musical style through art rock and even avant-garde filters (such as on 2011’s Credo) and ended up transcending and defining electronic music in the process. If it’s good enough to make James Murphy’s record collection, who am I to argue?

Formed in 1977 at the height of the punk era, the band’s start as a duo (until Phil Oakey joined in 1978) blended new-wave with Kraftwerk style electronics. This inspired debut single Being Boiled, which later made the seminal soul jazz compilation In the Beginning There Was Rhythm which fuelled New York’s underground scene in the coming years. Of course, the highlight of the discography remains 1981’s Dare which, alongside Fascination! and Hysteria, plays masterfully to the synth-pop canon with some of the best singles of the decade with Don’t You Want Me, Love Action and Electric Dreams.

That’s why the band’s continued touring is such a superb experience. Rarely does a group with such a stellar back catalogue continue to deliver in a live setting, but in recent years their performances have continued to echo the golden years of the mid-80’s. So, though this tour may be about celebrating the past, The Human League still have a place in music today - and if they are “the future”, then it looks mighty bright.