Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1995 album Octopus from 80s electronic hit-makers, The Human League.
The album opens with the tinkling introduction to the brilliant lead single, Tell Me When – a fresh sound, that also gives a nod back to their former 80s selves. It’s a great piece of pop, giving Phil Oakey a strong set of lyrics to sing, in a back and forth vocal cycle with bandmates Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. The track also includes a teasing false ending.
Second track These Are The Days starts with what sounds like an old alarm clock, before switching to a fat bass synth. This track is pretty light. It’s not particularly catchy, but musically it’s quite nice.
This is followed by second single One Man In My Heart, a track that gives Phil a back seat, gives Susan the front seat. The song is catchy, and perfectly formed.
Next up is Words with Phil reclaiming lead vocals. Lyrically this song is a bit weak, but I really like its simple, slow, minimal, composition. Phil’s unmistakeable 80s vocal style really works well here amongst the delicate tinkling synths, and sluggish bass line.
Fifth track Filling Up With Heaven is a grower, and became the third and final single from the album. As with Tell Me When, the back and forth cycle of vocal duelling between male and female vocals, works perfectly here. There’s also some wonderful sounding synths in use here.
Houseful Of Nothing is up next, and it’s a chilled out track, until about 2/3rds of the way through when the mid-section breaks.
The seventh track John Cleese: Is He Funny is an instrumental, and feels like an Oakey indulgence – on the album just because it could be. The group used analogue synths for this album, and this was probably a place to really showcase them.
Penultimate track Never Again stands out as a really nice track – musically and lyrically, and perhaps should have been a single.
And the final track Cruel Young Lover picks up the volume and pace. Musically it’s quite a strong track, but lyrically it is repetitive, and it gets a bit long-winded.
Where are the Human League now?
Not long after the release of Octopus’ third and final single, their record label ended a number of high profile music contracts, including theirs.
However, The Human League’s long career has enabled them to continue performing and releasing music. They have released two albums since Octopus, with the most recent (Credo) being released in 2011.
Pop Rescue rating
It’s an okay album, but it feels like it’s lacking a little creative range. I appreciate that The Human League come with a huge late-70s/80s fan base with expectations of a particular style, and in the mid-90s it was wonderfully refreshing to hear it return with new songs.
The album, all 9 tracks of it, just feels a little short-changed.
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1995 UK CHART POSITION: #6, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 (from a That’s Entertainment store).
One thought on “Review: “Octopus” by The Human League (CD, 1995)”
I agree with your rating, the singles as well as the odd album track still sound awesome today, there’s just a couple of songs that ruin the experience and prevent it from being a pop classic. I gave Octopus away after purchasing the superior follow up, Secrets,maybe a bit harsh as I used to play this loads.