SEEMINGLY every other new band sporting a synthesiser in the ranks – as well as Moby, Madonna and Gaga – declare them an influence.
So it was more than high time Sheffield’s original pop trio were back with something to re-stoke the flames of appreciation.
Monday sees The Human League finally deliver much-threatened new album Credo, nearly two years after they signed a deal with Wall Of Sound and 10 years since Secrets.
Taken at face value it is the shiny versus wonky, dizzy meets midnight, occasional duff lyric, synth-driven pop buffet that needed to be made if Phil Oakey, Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall were to provide fresh ammo to sustain their successful touring machine.
But does it go further than that? Does it present love rivals to Being Boiled or Don’t You Want Me; music that made them influential? Legendary to some.
Phil will be sure to stress the progressive nature of his League aspirations over dwelling on past glories. No music creative would be doing his/her job properly if they didn’t and HL, perhaps more than any, are always in danger of perceived parody.
But if a new pop album is designed to provide fresh songs for fans to celebrate, then Credo ticks the box several times. But it also hints at and strives to go beyond that.
Where once the contents might have been declared as retro, chartland’s newer incumbents – notably the likes of La Roux and Little Boots (on whose album Oakey featured) – have devised an environment that renders the League not just relevant again but like returning royalty. So is Credo a Prince William or a Prince Andrew?
Opener and current single Never Let Me Go immediately calls upon that signature clean, almost clinical, League sound, the girl’s vocals leading with Phil filling alongside rich electronic layers.
As an autumn taster for what was to come, the robotic, suburban disco of Night People wasn’t entirely accurate but it hinted at the fun, club-dwelling side of an act sometimes viewed as lacking playfulness.
Post break-up tune Sky is a contrast, its gentler arrangement working well with simplistic lyricism and Phil’s story-telling delivery.
Into The Night has a dream-like quality but is arguably one of the more forgettable efforts up against the stomp and classic League framing of Egomaniac and the warmer Single Minded.
Electric Shock is something of a glossy black sheep crying out for a sturdy remix to send it flying around Ibiza dancefloors while Get Together is one of those ‘conventional’ songs Oakey and crew sometimes do.
Privilege is a frugal offering that harks back to weirder early times, harvesting quirky sounds and a brutalistic vocal, as Breaking The Chains gives a whiff of (Keep Feeling) Fascination before evolving into one of the album’s most accomplished speaker fillers.
When The Stars Start To Shine is perhaps an unexpected closer; a febrile, rugged snapshot of possible plausible future angles. It doesn’t feel entirely formed, equally it doesn’t give the I Monster-produced Credo a predictable sign off either.
“We’re peculiar,” says Susan, in conclusion. “We don’t fit in. There are three of us, two of whom have never written a song and are pretty average singers, plus we’ve got a lead singer who doesn’t consider himself a singer at all and can’t play any instruments very well.
“And yet we think of ourselves as a pop group. If a market research group got hold of us, they’d change absolutely everything.”
Whether Credo will lure new fans is debatable, but for simply still being here, still making music – eventually – and Susan’s band appraisal, we’ve still got to love ‘em.