OK, ready, let’s do it. Celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of its release this week and also approximately the fortieth anniversary of its recording is the compilation of early recordings by The Human League, The Golden Hour of the Future.
It opens with the brilliant single-that-never-was, Dance Like a Star, which sounds exactly as it should – The Human League Mk 1, as they are popularly called, the early lineup, featuring Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh alongside vocalist Phil Oakey, always seemed to be making eccentric pop which was a little rough around the edges. This is exactly that – and it might not quite be release quality, but you can still hear the sheer brilliance that’s still to come.
This compilation was curated by über-fan Richard X when he was pretty much at the height of his fame, and pulls together twenty tracks altogether, a mixture of early material by The Human League, their predecessor group The Future, and one solo track from Phil Oakey.
The second track is from The Future, entitled Looking for the Black Haired Girls, and is a fun experimental semi-instrumental track, and that is then followed by the pleasantly melodic and beatsy 4JG from The Human League. It ends, slightly unpredictably, with a child singing Baa Baa Black Sheep.
Most of the earlier tracks are from The Future though, often very experimental, slightly noisy pieces, hinting perhaps at vocalist Adi Newton‘s later industrial work with Clock DVA. Black Clocks is pleasant, but definitely more odd than anything, while Cairo takes a lot of inspiration from the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and sounds every bit as fantastic.
As The Human League showed us long ago on those first two albums, they had always been fascinated with advertising, and so Dominion Advertisement should come as little surprise. It serves as a brief interlude before Dada Dada Duchamp Vortex, a very pleasant drifting piece which along for nearly six minutes before passing over to Daz.
You might find yourself drifting with the music, as Future Religion mixes into Disco Disaster. There’s more than enough variety here to satisfy a full career compilation, but there’s also a huge amount of material. Even among that, a few tracks really stand out – Interface is brilliant, as is Phil Oakey‘s solo work The Circus of Dr. Lao, and then there’s a fun instrumental cover of Reach Out (I’ll Be There) in case things need livening up.
There are some more experimental moments with New Pink Floyd, Once Upon a Time in the West, Overkill Disaster Crash, and Year of the Jet Packs, a series which are all good, but only the last one really shines. Pulse Lovers is great too, and then we’re pretty much at the end already, with the short King of Kings, and then, after a lot of odd groaning and screaming, the extremely long Last Man on Earth.
Of course, the thing with Last Man on Earth is that it does, to some extent, help explain what on earth Phil Oakey was going on about on Circus of Death, The Human League‘s first b-side, released just a year or so after most of these demos would have been recorded. This is definitely history in the making.
What’s surprising is just how good this is as an album. I’ve always loved The Human League Mk 1, but their sound on their albums is always a little raw and uncontrolled, and I suppose I expected their early demos to be even more manic. But they’re not particularly, and I’m very glad this compilation appeared to help add more context to those early years.
The CD has fallen out of print again, but you can still find The Golden Hour of the Future through your favourite digital retailers.