The Human League – The Golden Hour of the Future

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 LeagueThe 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 DVABlack 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 FloydOnce Upon a Time in the WestOverkill 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 DeathThe 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.

Music for the Masses 38 – 30 April 2005

The Live Bit, launched only the preceding week as a new feature, quickly turned out to be way too much trouble and was downsized to just one track, but the Electromix would continue for the rest of the show’s run, this week starring Leeds’s own Utah Saints as the centrepiece.

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Show 38: Sat 30 Apr 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Apollo 440.

  • Moloko – The Time is Now
  • System F – Insolation
  • Faithless feat. Boy George – Why Go?
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Remix)
  • Apollo 440 – Astral America
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Clarke & Ware Experiment – Communication (from Music for Multiple Dimensions)
  • New Order feat. Ana Matronic – Jetstream (Richard X Remix)
  • LCD Soundsystem – Disco Infiltrator
  • Heaven 17 – Being Boiled (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Amorphous Androgynous – The Mello Hippo Disco Show
  • Apollo 440 – Pain in Any Language
  • Moby – I Like It
  • M83 – Teen Angst (Montag Mix)
  • Lemon Jelly – Make Things Right
  • The Flirts – Passion
  • Apollo 440 – Heart Go Boom
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans [Electromix]
  • Utah Saints – Love Song [Electromix]
  • Piney Gir – Girl [Electromix]
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Music for the Masses 15 – 29 March 2000

Bay Radio, like any student radio station, suffered a little from bad student taste, and the student union was often pretty much empty at 10.55 in the morning, for reasons which are very obvious indeed. So if anything particularly dreadful turned up on the playlist, I would often try to hide it at 10.55am, before the show started properly.

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Show 15: Wed 29 Mar 2000, from 10.55am-1.05pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 14 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (4 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 8 tracks). L indicates the ones from the “library” (Total 5 tracks).

  • 1. Clinic “The Return of Evil Bill” A
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. David Arnold & Nina Persson “Randall & Hopkirk Theme” A
  • 3. Dubstar “Stars” R
  • 4. Death in Vegas “Dirge” A
  • 5. Timo Maas “Der Schieber” A
  • 6. Enigma “Push the Limits” R
  • 7. Travis “Turn” A
  • [Coming Events Feature]
  • 8. Echoboy “Kit & Holly” A
  • 9. Beck “Mixed Bizness” S
  • 10. Planet Perfecto feat. Grace “Not Over Yet 99” R
  • [Advert Break]
  • 11. Shamen “Indica” R
  • 12. Fragma “Toca’s Miracle” B
  • 13. Merz “Lotus” B
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 14. Everything But the Girl “Hatfield 1980” R
  • 15. Moby “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” L
  • 16. Richard Ashcroft “Song for the Lovers” A
  • 17. Asian Dub Foundation “Real Great Britain” C
  • 18. Pala “Cat-Like Creatures” B
  • 19. Bloodhound Gang “The Bad Touch” L
  • 20. O.M.D. “Walking on the Milky Way” R
  • [Top 10 Single & Album Charts]
  • 21. York “The Awakening” L
  • 22. The Clarke & Ware Experiment “Music for Multiple Dimensions” (Technology) R
  • 23. Big Yoga Muffin “Is that How You?” C
  • [Advert Break]
  • 24. Ouch “Seen the Light” A
  • 25. Rage Against the Machine “Sleep Now in the Fire” A
  • 26. Komputer “The World of Tomorrow” R
  • [IRN 1.00 News]
  • 27. Depeche Mode “Only When I Lose Myself” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Well that was fun, wasn’t it, kiddies. No, I didn’t think so, either. Well, it went about averagely, with me stopping a record half way through (never done that before) and also playing the track I’d just played (never done that either actually). So I think I’ve done about all the big mistakes possible now. Well, except for missing the news, which everyone else seems to be managing with considerable enthusiasm. Mind you, I did manage to overlap it with a jingle…

Chart for stowaways – 17 January 2015

The ghost of Christmas 2014 finally fades, as Erasure swap Make it Wonderful for Gaudete at the top of the singles chart, and Röyksopp make their millionth climb back towards the top with Running to the Sea. Meanwhile, on the albums:

  1. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  2. Erasure – The Violet Flame
  3. Erasure – Snow Globe
  4. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  5. The Clarke & Ware Experiment – House of Illustrious
  6. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  7. The Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture
  8. Depeche Mode – Violator
  9. U2 – Songs of Innocence
  10. Everything But The Girl – Adapt or Die – Ten Years of Remixes

Music for the Masses 7 – 8 February 2000

By early February, Kraftwerk had made it onto the A-list on Bay Radio, so I was able to play them without needing an excuse!

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Tracks played on the seventh show, Tue 8 Feb 2000, from 3pm-5pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 14 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (3 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 8 tracks). L is dem dere tracks out of the drawer (Total 8 tracks).

  • 1. Ten Benson “Robot Tourist” C
  • 2. Bluetones “Keep the Home Fires Burning” A
  • 3. Electronic “Freefall” R
  • 4. Sneaker Pimps “Six Underground” L
  • 5. Moby “Natural Blues” A
  • [Rag Week Advert]
  • 6. Everything But the Girl “Temperamental” (DJ Spen & Karizma Remix Edit) L
  • 7. Azzido da Bass “Dooms Night” B
  • 8. Beloved “The Sun Rising” R
  • 9. Younger Younger 28s “Inbetween Days” A
  • 10. Energy 52 “Café del Mar 98” L
  • 11. Space Brothers “Shine 2000” L
  • 12. Kraftwerk “Expo 2000” A
  • 13. Tom Jones & Stereophonics “Mama Told Me Not to Come” A
  • 14. William Orbit “Barber’s Adagio for Strings” L
  • 15. Erasure “First Contact” R
  • [News Break]
  • 16. Chicane “Saltwater” L
  • 17. Shamen “MK2A” R
  • 18. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki “Poodle Rockin'” S
  • 19. Fiona Apple “Fast As You Can” A
  • 20. Jean Michel Jarre “Hey Gagarin” R
  • 21. The Clarke & Ware Experiment “Communication” R
  • 22. Komputer “Looking Down on London” R
  • 23. Sgt. Rock “Yeah Word Party” B
  • 24. Rhinocerose “La Guitaristic House Organisation” C
  • 25. Smashing Pumpkins “Stand inside Your Love” C
  • 26. Brassy “Work it Out” A
  • 27. Utah Saints “Love Song” L
  • 28. Progress presents the Boy Wunda “Everybody” L
  • 29. Bellatrix “The Girl with the Sparkling Eyes” B
  • 30. Faithless “Salva Mea” (Floating Mix) R

Producer: None.

Notes: Hmm… well apart from (a) complete and utter chaos for the first half hour; (b) an appalling Rag Week jingle that I was supposed to play every 15 minutes but decided to read out instead, and (c) lots of other things, that went about as smoothly as a fairly smooth thing.

Music for the Masses 6 – 31 January 2000

The end of January 2000 saw this blog’s predecessor, the radio show Music for the Masses, return for another run of shows on Bay Radio, Aberystwyth’s student radio station.

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Tracks played on the sixth show, Mon 31 Jan 2000, from 11am-1pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 13 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 13 tracks). L is the ones out of the drawer (Total 5 tracks).

  • 1. Terris “The Time is Now” B
  • 2. The All Seeing I “1st Man in Space” R
  • 3. Oasis “Go Let it Out” A
  • 4. Kraftwerk “Expo 2000” (Kling Klang Mix 2002) R
  • 5. Space Brothers “Shine 2000” L
  • 6. Jay-Z “Anything” A
  • 7. Enigma “Gravity of Love” R
  • 8. Hepburn “Deep Deep Down” B
  • 9. The Clarke & Ware Experiment “Travel” (from Music for Multiple Dimensions) R
  • 10. Eiffel 65 “Move Your Body” L
  • 11. Death in Vegas “Aisha” A
  • 12. Raissa “How Long Do I Get?” S
  • 13. Everything But the Girl “Temperamental” R
  • 14. Rhinocerose “La Guitaristic House Organisation” C
  • 15. Tom Jones & Stereophonics “Mama Told Me Not to Come” A
  • 16. Monaco “What Do You Want From Me?” R
  • 17. Fungus “A Fanclub Would Be Nice” B
  • 18. Sarah Cracknell “Anymore” R
  • 19. Dario G. “Voices” L
  • 20. Yello “To The Sea” R
  • 21. Eels “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” A
  • 22. Pet Shop Boys “Lies” R
  • 23. Apollo 440 “Heart Go Boom” L
  • 24. Kelis “Caught Out There” A
  • 25. Missy “Misdemeanour” Elliot “Hot Boyz” A
  • 26. Yazoo “Don’t Go” (Todd Terry Freeze Mix) R
  • 27. Kawala “Humanistic” L
  • 28. Manic Street Preachers “You Stole the Sun from My Heart” L
  • 29. Wannadies “Yeah” A
  • 30. Tony di Bart “The Real Thing” R
  • 31. Robert Miles “Freedom” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Mmm, nice. Err… not a lot else to say really. Lots of noisy listeners too, which is scary. But there we go. Oh, and hilarious drying up to even more hilarious consequences at one point. Well, I thought it was funny…

Chart for stowaways – 29 March 2014

After a bit of a break while the album chart went a bit bonkers, it’s time for its return. It’s not a lot less bonkers:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3: Dark
  3. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation
  4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Architecture and Morality
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  6. Chicane – The Best of 1996-2008
  7. De La Soul – AOI: Bionix
  8. Deep Forest – Deep Forest
  9. Enigma – The Screen Behind the Mirror
  10. The Clarke and Ware Experiment – Pretentious

Erasure – I Say I Say I Say

In 1994, we hadn’t heard much out of Erasure since 1992’s Abba-esque EP. Their comeback, produced by Heaven 17‘s Martyn Ware was rightly much anticipated. Flanked by the single Always and housed in some quite exceptional artwork, it headed straight for the top of the charts, giving the duo their fifth consecutive number one album. But was it actually any good?

The album opens with the slightly discordant sound of Take Me Back, which builds into a really good song. Perhaps not as good as anything on Chorus (1991), but pretty good nonetheless. Heavy and layered, and punctuated by the occasional weird noise, Erasure‘s new sound was, for the last time in their career, entirely contemporary, and very popular indeed. On the strength of this, I Say I Say I Say was an entirely justified number one hit.

The same cannot unfortunately be said of third single I Love Saturday. By 1994, Erasure had been pumping out pop hit after pop hit, but rarely could it be said to be truly vacuous. Sadly, catchy though it is, I Love Saturday has very little to say for itself.

The slower Man in the Moon and So the Story Goes are more pleasant. The synth work is still a little overwhelming, but this was very much the trend in the mid-1990s. The choruses are catchy, and the lyrics are every bit as sweet as they should be.

Second single Run to the Sun provides something of a contrast, full of energetic, driving synth sounds. It’s worth a moment to consider the instrumentation – perhaps it is a touch over the top at some points on this album, but this track is really brought to life by the backing. This is actually even more brilliant than I remembered…

Then comes the lead single Always, which is certainly up there among Erasure‘s finest songs. Their golden age was indisputably drawing to a close by this point, but they were still more than capable of writing something utterly brilliant, as they proved without a doubt on this track.

All Through the Years is good – very good, in fact – but the thing is, the message is pretty much the same as Take Me Back. Perhaps, apart from a few moments of forced jollity, the whole of this album is about looking back on the past? Maybe not…

But as is often the way with Erasure albums, the second half of the album is a little disappointing otherwise. Blues Away is total drivel, admittedly with quite a nice melody and some very nice backing vocals, and Miracle isn’t a lot better. But that’s a pretty low clunker-to-hit ratio in the scheme of things, so we shouldn’t really complain.

Then in no time whatsoever, the album is drawing to a close. The last track is the lovely Because You’re So Sweet. Erasure, if they have nothing else (they don’t), have a particular knack for picking great closing tracks, and this one is particularly special. It’s a beautiful song, and closes the album rather wonderfully. But for once, this one is spoilt a little by its production – the steam train noise that closes the first chorus about a minute in is completely out of place. It’s tempting to suggest that the acoustic version on the I Love Saturday single might be better. But it’s still an extremely good song.

So I Say I Say I Say is certainly a variable album, sandwiched between the near-perfect Chorus and Erasure (1995, reviewed here). But at the same time, the memory cheats – it’s certainly a much better album than I remembered, and on reflection, two decades on it hasn’t aged too badly.

You can find I Say I Say I Say through all major retailers, such as this one. If you missed the Beginner’s guide to Erasure, then you can still find it here.

Heaven 17 – Naked As Advertised

Five years ago this week, Heaven 17 came back to perform another tour. Never having really toured in their heyday, they came to the idea of playing live relatively late, but have in recent years taken to it with gusto.

In 2008, in the process of reworking old tunes for their latest tour, they decided to revisit some of their tracks – and some by other artists – for a mini-album-come-compilation with the odd title Naked As Advertised – Versions ’08. It’s far from perfect – some of the tracks are worse than the originals, but others are better, and thanks to this it’s definitely worth hearing.

The first track is a sadly rather cheesy take on The Human League‘s brilliant debut single Being BoiledGlenn Gregory is, as always, an excellent vocalist, and delivers it perfectly, but the backing suffers from Martyn Ware‘s sometimes perfect, sometimes totally misjudged touch. The backing vocals are also rather over-the-top.

Next up comes a brilliant take of Geisha Boys and Temple Girls. As with much of their debut album Penthouse and Pavement, this was poorly realised in its original form, but this time around it’s close to perfect. Gregory’s vocal is stronger and more confident, and the backing vocals are better judged, but more importantly the synth sounds hit the tones on the nose.

The new take of Temptation featuring Billie Godfrey is typically flamboyant and strong too, but inevitably it doesn’t even come close to Brothers in Rhythm‘s charged 1992 versions, let alone the original.

A new version of Penthouse and Pavement follows, again better than the original, proving that it was a good song in the first place, but lacking the sheer “shock power” of Geisha Boys and Temple Girls. This is followed by a powerful piano cover version of Party Fears Two, and another cover, Don’t Fall, comes next, and turns out to be very strong indeed, perhaps one of the best tracks on this album.

The dance versions of (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang which have been popping up over the last couple of decades are largely awful, and this one is no exception. You can just about see that there might be a decent song hidden in there somewhere, but the dreadful synth riff and corny sound effects really don’t help you hear it.

The new version of We Live So Fast is a little better, and is perhaps even on a par with the original from The Luxury Gap (1983). The new backing doesn’t really help it much, but neither does it entirely hinder matters.

The final track is another Human League original, Empire State Human, and as one of the finest tracks from Reproduction and Travelogue you might think this an opportunity to bring out some of its better points. Unfortunately they didn’t take the opportunity – instead they manage to ruin it by creating a silly and pointless spoken word version.

So Naked As Advertised is every bit as much of a mixed bag as its rather daft title and cheap artwork might suggest. In a couple of cases the new versions are better than the originals; in a couple they’re worse. But all in all it’s good to know that Heaven 17 are still capable of putting together a decent album – and fortunately, the tour which followed was considerably better than this little compilation might have suggested.

Naked As Advertised is still available through stores such as Amazon

Playlist for stowaways – Comme Mode

If you’ve ever spent any time in Germany, you’ll know that they really like Depeche Mode over there. Absolutely love them. There’s a whole raft of bands who sound a lot like them. Which, for a band who the UK still like to regard as purveyors of slightly naff plinky plonky pop, is quite impressive.

The latest Playlist for stowaways is a tribute to Depeche Mode – acts inspired by them, related to them, or who just sound a little bit like them.

It’s online now, located here. Here are the tracks that make it up:

  1. Dave Gahan – I Need You (Radio Mix)
  2. Mesh – From This Height (Pocket Orchestra Remix)
  3. Bomb the Bass – Winter in July (7″)
  4. Duran Duran – Out of My Mind (Perfecto Mix)
  5. Front Line Assembly – Everything Must Perish
  6. Martin L. Gore – In a Manner of Speaking
  7. Lindum & Lindum – Waiting for the Night
  8. Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück
  9. Recoil – Jezebel
  10. De/Vision – Dress Me When I Bleed
  11. Camouflage – Love is a Shield (Single Version)
  12. The Clarke and Ware Experiment – Wilderness/Turbulence
  13. Soulsavers – Longest Day