Episode 153: Sonic Design Within Reach

Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss “Dare!” by The Human League.

Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss Dare by The Human League.


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6 Comments on “Episode 153: Sonic Design Within Reach”

  1. Chris Morgan #

    I’m disappointed in this episode, but only because it means you won’t go all semester just talking about albums from 1980 proper.


  2. Josie M. #

    So this episode came out while I was both very sick and on a road trip to visit my parents for Passover, so I got to listen to it in the car somewhere in the no-mans-land between Orlando and Ft. Pierce along what are literally the two longest stretches of uninterrupted highway in the United States.

    And speaking of travel! I did get the sense that my introducing Ryan on Twitter to the earlier work of the original-lineup Human League (the “more experimental” records from 1978 and 1980 with Marsh & Ware, and which I love much more than is reasonable) had some influence your discussion.

    I recall reading that part of the reason for the breakup of that lineup was a feeling that Gary Numan had stolen their thunder. Because as we all know, Numan’s 1979 album The Pleasure Principle achieved the pop success that had eluded the League until this album (and would continue to elude Marsh & Ware’s new band Heaven 17, in part because of their politics).

    So, it’s selling out only because until then they hadn’t figured out how to sell out sooner. That’s why I think you get at something important here. Dare! is one of the first points at which we achieve true synth-pop synthesis. They’re were fans of disco as much as of krautrock, and this is where those two strands of early electronic pop – the Kraftwerk and the Giorgio Moroder – hook up (and to continue the sex metaphor, concieve the “Eighties” of our popular imagining.)

    Also, a few years later both Heaven 17 and Phil Oakey would work with Moroder (and Culture Club and Jeff Lynne) on the soundtrack to an indie sci-fi romcom (hows that for abbreviations), Electric Dreams, which I also love much more than is reasonable. You should watch it if you have not seen it, it’s one of the most purely of-its-time things I can imagine.


    • sheely OTI Staff #

      Your point on the synth-pop synthesis involving Kraftwerk + Moroder makes a ton of sense. It makes me think a lot of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which does a lot to explore different permutations of disco-funk and electronic music.

      The early Human League records definitely helped to provide a bit of context, and I definitely want to listen more from that era (especially the Heaven 17 stuff).


  3. Dan Alt #

    So you’re saying it’s a Kraftwerk solution to a Bruno Mars problem?


  4. Josie M. #

    Also, for a taste of original-lineup HL that fits thematically into this episode, here’s “Dreams of Leaving” from Travelogue, which I think is about immigration: https://youtu.be/GW6-aOHuPfQ


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