The Human League – Hysteria (1984) – Lp
The Human League are an English synthpop band formed in Sheffield in 1977. The band began as an avant-garde all-male synthesizer group. The only constant band member since 1977 has been lead singer and songwriter Philip Oakey. Keyboard players Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh both left the band in 1980 to form Heaven 17. Under Oakey’s leadership, The Human League then evolved into a commercially successful New Pop band with a new line-up including female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley.
Artist: The Human League
Label: Virgin Records
The Human League followed Dare! with more success, at least when it came to singles. The Motown-inspired “Mirror Man” and the frivolous (in a borderline-genius way) “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” maintained the group’s momentum. When recording commenced for the full-length successor to Dare!, however, things got ugly. Martin Rushent, the producer who either receives all or no credit for the Human League’s mainstream breakthrough, left the sessions. The slate was wiped clean, but the process was halted once more when another producer, Chris Thomas (Roxy Music, Sex Pistols), also split. Full of indecision and doubt, the group took forever to finish Hysteria. (Two and a half years in the ’80s were, in fact, equal to forever, and U.S. label A&M intervened with the Fascination! EP, which contained the post-Dare! singles that did not appear on this album.) Hysteria is mediocre and easily the least of the group’s albums to that point. Conscious not to repeat themselves and unable to do it without sacrificing their personality, most of the changes sound forced and fussily mulled over. It was one thing to get political and introduce some uncharacteristic guitar lines on “The Lebanon” (alienating your fanbase should always be encouraged, especially when it’s done with a single that looks atrocious on paper but sounds fantastic), but “Rock Me Again” is the kind of thing the group once worked against, with Philip Oakey adopting an awkward, straining rock voice. The melodies are often flat, the arrangements are frequently bloodless. With only a couple exceptions, Hysteria sounds exactly like an album made under extreme post-platinum pressure. If you were to replace your pick of two tracks with “Mirror Man” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” — which really wouldn’t sound any more out of place than “The Lebanon” — you’d at least have something resembling the group’s old standard. Fun fact: it was released three years before a very different Sheffield band’s Hysteria.
1. I’m Coming Back (4:11)
2. I Love You Too Much (3:26)
3. Rock Me Again & Again & Again & Again & Again & Again (Six Times) (3:31)
4. Louise (4:57)
5. The Lebanon (5:04)
1. Betrayed (4:06)
2. The Sign (3:48)
3. So Hurt (3:52)
4. Life On Your Own (4:07)
5. Don’t You Know I Want You (3:10)