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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Human League reveal Secrets
Human League
Human League are back with new album Secrets
By BBC News Online's Olive Clancy

If the Eighties revival really gets beyond a batwing sleeve here, a hip-slung belt there and somebody makes a movie about those years, Human League will head up the soundtrack.

Back then Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley (spotted dancing at Sheffield's Craisy Daisy nightclub) were the girls we wanted to be, Phil Oakey was the man we wanted to know.

Human League
Secrets is the first album in nearly five years
Don't You Want Me, Mirror Man, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, were the songs we were humming.

Those who lived through those years may turn their noses up at batwing sleeves and full on eye-liner, but guess what? Human League are back and they are as cool as they have ever been.

They are feted by Moby and Craig David, the important Ministry of Sound label are to re-issue chunks of their back catalogue and now Human League have a new album Secrets.

"It's not different to what we've done before - it's just longer," says Phil Oakey, still as devilishly handsome as I remember him, if with considerably less hair.

"I think we've done the album we always wanted to do. This is it. And to an extent I don't even care if people like it, its what we wanted to do."

We've never been styled or told to have this haircut or whatever - we just dress the way we would've in a night out in Sheffield

Joanne Catherall

The press treatment has been remarkably positive and Human League look like they could be making a comeback, at the ripe old ages of 45 (Oakey) and 38 (Sulley and Catherall).

They still look fantastic - if not nearly as flamboyant as in the 1980s - and now, as then, the look is all their own work.

"We've never been styled or told to have this haircut or whatever," says Joanne.

"We just dress the way we would've in a night out in Sheffield."

Oakey famously came across the women enjoying just such a night out in Sheffield and he immediately recognised a look that would be a large part of the band's attraction.

"They looked stylish, very directional. It wasn't haphazard, it wasn't extreme," says Oakey.

Some might argue that they were just a touch extreme - Joanne would wear a cloak, while Susanne wore a dyed wedding dress and Oakley admits to looking like an "extra from Macbeth" complete with doublet.

Success was almost immediate, the look fitted perfectly with the nascent MTV trend, the abstract computerised sound chimed with the times.

Human League
The way they were: Human League during their 1980s
Don't You Want Me? was the Christmas number one and found its way to the top in America and the band were on their way, though if the success was a surprise, it did not bowl them over.

"We never really thought about it," says Sulley of dramatic highs which lasted throughout the decade.

When the time came to analyse it, things were not good.

"Later we became very withdrawn and didn't know how to go on from that," agrees Catherall.

By the 1990s their music was out of vogue and Human League had a giant hangover.

We're not very good, but we are better than everybody else

Philip Oakley

There are tales of financial mismanagement, depression and breakdowns.

This said, their bounce-back is all the more impressive and the darkness is only really evident on one album - Romantic - which Catherall describes as "gloomy", quickly adding "but it was only the once".

They certainly seem to be on the crest of another wave though resolutely down-to-earth about their own celebrity.

They are not afraid to criticise the music industry, the constant styling of bands to meet a market and the way music gets lost in between the two.

And unlike many bands who claim it is all about the music - you do actually believe them.

"We do feel like we've made the right album," says Oakey.

"We never sit in the studio and think what will the fans like or what will people buy. We make the music we want to."

In interviews and in person they are very modest about their own success and their own abilities, something that puzzles me given their profile.

When I ask them about it, Oakey snorts with laughter.

"The media only ever write the half of it down," he says.

"We're not very good, but we are better than everybody else."

See also:

01 Aug 01 | Music
MTV's League success
03 Aug 01 | Reviews
Secrets is top of the League
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