THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare
1 The Things That Dreams Are Made Of 4:17
2 Open Your Heart 3:56 (UK single, #6)
3 The Sound Of The Crowd 4:06 (UK single, #12)
4 Darkness 3:58
5 Do Or Die 5:25
6 Get Carter 1:02
7 I Am The Law 4:08
8 Seconds 4:58
9 Love Action (I Believe In Love) 5:01 (UK single, #3)
10 Don’t You Want Me 3:56 (UK single, #1)
For some The Human League’s third album, and their first following a split that created Heaven 17, is the very essence of the Eighties. It regularly tops the “Best Of The Decade” lists, and continues to inspire reverie in many people of a certain age. We’ve reached #9 and it’s turned up on this countdown too, so I don’t radically dispute the consensual opinion, but I’m here to tell you what I’ve found to be true. Woo-ooh.
Dare is a great album. It captured that period in late 1981 and early 1982 perfectly, with its succession of brilliant singles. But is it as perfect as people say it is? I’m not sure. It’s held up to be perfect pop, and yet large chunks of it are pretty far off the mainstream. The album is not 10 potential hit singles, for sure, and was never meant to be.
I love The Human League, they are the connoisseurs of wonk. Phil can sound like a Dalek, the synths drift in and out of tune sometimes, and their fondness for gauche lyrics and a naff rhyme is another endearing trait. But all of this makes them special, makes them The Human League and I wouldn’t want that to ever change (and, as of 2017, it thankfully never has).
Though it contains four Top 20 singles, and one very-famous (too-famous) worldwide #1, Dare strangely doesn’t include any of my personal favourite 45s. Mirror Man and Fascination remained orphans throughout their life, while later gems such as Heart Like A Wheel and Tell Me When were from much patchier records. Open Your Heart’s the best of the Dare singles for me, due mostly to the euphoric rush of the verses and the sense of urgency throughout. Seconds, often cited as a classic single-that-could-have-been is my other standout, an unrelenting slab of electropop that tells the story of JFK’s shooting in 1963.
For all its chart dominance, and the Top 2 success of the band’s next pair of singles, Dare proved to be the pinnacle of their career rather than the start of a prolonged reign atop the world of pop. They famously lost the plot whilst trying to write and record its follow-up Hysteria, over-thinking and second-guessing themselves until the result was almost painfully protracted and lacking the dynamics of their best work. And so their imperial phase lasted just the one album and half a dozen singles, but when they were on form, nobody could touch them.