Picks and Pans Review: Hysteria
The Human League
The British sextet, on their third American release, continue to turn out a distinctively engaging, melodic brand of synth-pop. The group's style wouldn't necessarily invite wide commercial acceptance; it's based on Philip Oakey's bland vocals, the eerie harmonies of Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, the cool quality of synthesizer-heavy arrangements and programmed percussion. Yet on its 1982 hit, Don't You Want Me, and such songs as I'm Coming Back and The Sign from this album, the League creates a sound that is infectious and, in a distanced way, funky. (Chris Thomas and Hugh Padgham, two English rock veterans, co-produce with the League the taut, well-blended sound.) The biggest surprise on Hysteria is the unleashing of guitarist Jo Callis on The Lebanon; both in instrumentation and lyrics ("She dreams of nineteen sixty-nine/Before the soldiers came/The life was cheap on bread and wine/And sharing meant no shame"), this song makes the group sound remarkably like U2. The other nine songs on Hysteria are pure Human League: electropop informed with a muted passion. (A&M)
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