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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Secrets is top of the League
Human League
Human League: Synth-pop stalwarts
By BBC News Online's Tim Masters

Just a few seconds of the first track of the new Human League album is evidence enough that the Sheffield synth-pop legends are working on the principle of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

It's an astonishing 20 years since the soundtrack to a generation that was Dare! was released - and how well songs like Don't You Want Me? and Love Action gave a rosy glow to all that sixth form angst.

Now The Human League have resurfaced in a new century with Secrets and it's like a bunch of old friends turning up out of the blue after tracking you down on a "find your school chums" website.

After some disappointing albums in the late 80s and early 90s, the Human League have achieved that rarest of feats: a record with more hooks than a fisherman's kit bag.

Secrets album cover
Female singers were plucked from a Sheffield nightclub
The opening track All I Ever Wanted is like the last two decades never happened.

Phil Oakey half-sings monosyllabically over a robotic bassline, while Susan Anne Gayle and Joanne Catherall still sound like they've just been plucked out of a Sheffield nightclub.

What's even more obvious by the third track Love Me Madly? is that The Human League lyrics still have the power to make you squirm.

"You're like the woman out of 'Species'/ I think I'm going to go to pieces" sings Oakey without a trace of irony, adding: "I'm tethered to a trainee hellcat/ I'm feeling jealous of the doormat".

That said, Love Me Madly? is catchier than a summer cold.

This is the first album since 1995's Octopus
Still together in electric dreams
There's refuge from those lyrics in the album's liberal sprinkling of instrumental interludes.

But despite the clubby beats and synth gymnastics none really last long enough to make much impact.

What this album has going for it is that almost every non-instrumental track has single potential, in particular Sin City and Never Give Your Heart - with Susan and Joanne taking the lead vocal duties.

Oakey's weird Eighties haircut may be long gone, but he's kept The Human League together in their electric dreams.

Secrets (Papillon Records) is out on Monday 6 August

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