Review: “Dare!” by The Human League (CD, 1981)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain, is the 1981 third album Dare! by British electronic synth-pop band The Human League. Will owning this album be a true Love Action, or Don’t You Want it in your collection? Read on…

The Human League - Dare! (1981) album
The Human League – Dare! (1981) album.

This 10 track reissue version (the album was not issued on CD until 1983) opens with the simple beats and synths of The Things That Dreams Are Made Of. At times I’m reminded of Kraftwerk, as Phil Oakey’s vocals arrive. Drums and further synths drop in (occasionally sounding like an electro flute on acid) in time for the catchy chorus. It’s a brilliant little song setting the mood for the album.

Open Your Heart follows this, and we’re treated to more of the flute-ish flittering sound, and as it weaves throughout the song, it becomes a little overbearing over the top of the harmonies, making that part of the song sound like one of those less-loved Abba album songs. Phil is of course delivering his vocals perfectly as another simple synth and beat line runs throughout. The track reached #6 in the UK when it was released as the album’s third single.

That’s followed by lead single The Sound Of The Crowd. Its simplicity is this protest song’s strength, and its strength gave the band a #12 UK hit. The tempo races along, with a wonderful bass and companion synth line alongside it making it sound like it has a sense of urgency and sinisterness, and wonderfully catchy. The harmonies and Phil’s shouting in the chorus really brings this track alive.

Next is Darkness, giving us some more wonderful almost spacey sounding 80’s synths. This track gives Phil a wonderful stage from which to show off his vocal range – resulting in a fairly catchy nice little song.

Percussion drops in for Do Or Die with a repeated sample in the intro of what sounds like something from to an 8-bit arcade machine game. This is a wonderful song, although the instrumental mid-section is a bit too long – still, in 1981 this was no doubt a delight to hear these fresh new synth sounds. We get to hear the ladies Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall clearly here in the chorus, and they sound magnificent. An edit of this 5m 25s track, or a remix might just make it even more fun.

We’re off to space or electro Gaelic for the instrumental little track Get Carter that runs for just 1m 52s. It’s a cover from the Get Carter film score by Roy Budd. It’s very minimal, and probably made more sense on the vinyl version of this album, as the opener to side two of the LP.

It does lower the mood a little, which is perfect as we tread into I Am The Law, which has a downbeat sound, made of a ploddy bass synth, and some space cats. Phil sings over the top in a very authoritative tone, but this overshadows the song a bit too much. This runs straight into the next song…

Seconds, and this lifts the tempo and mood back up again, with a racing pace, an almost ticking clock beat, and wonderfully crisp synth line. Phil sounds great here again, and the song builds into a catchy little track, ending with a weird space sound again.

The intro to next song Love Action (I Believe In Love) reminds me of my Compuserve dial-up modem sounds, but then Phil, bass, and beats drop in for this, their second single. It has a simple structure, but the synth sounds, riffs, and backing vocals really help to keep this track bouncing along perfectly. Rightly, it hit #3 in the UK charts, and was by this point their biggest hit. That was soon to change though….

The album closes with huge hit, that is synonymous with the band’s name, and on almost all 1980’s compilations – Don’t You Want Me. It’s the fair-weather song that non-fans know and can enjoy, without having to delve into the band’s rich back catalogue. From that first note, and that iconic synth line, you know exactly what follows. It’s a brilliant song, with the vocal duelling, harmonies, and tempo being absolute gold. This song is flawlessly delivered.

Re-edited performance of The Human League’s lead single ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’.

Verdict

Over all, this album is a perfect example of early 1980’s electronic music. The synths are a delight to hear, and Phil’s vocals are solid and perfectly sat next to the almost robotic sound that emerges in several of the tracks. Susan and Joanne’s backing vocals add the perfect contrast in all the right places, although a bit more of them would have been welcome.

Don’t You Want Me, Love Action (I Believe In Love), The Sound Of The Crowd, and The Things That Dreams Are Made Of are all brilliant tracks – memorable, catchy, and interesting to listen to. I Am The Law is a bit over-bearing, and the weird inclusion of the Get Carter cover, detracts a little.

Ultimately, I’m disappointed that it’s taken me this long to hear this album so that I could appreciate Human League in album form rather than solely on that song, and their later 1990s album Octopus. This is essential listening.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1981 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #1, certified 3x Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: 33p from a British Heart Foundation store.

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