Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Japanese Version featuring a Bonus Track: "Tell Me When (Mix 1)".
Japanese Version featuring a Bonus Track: "Tell Me When (Mix 1)".
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"Octopus" has enough tentacles to grab plenty of attention
cssuperstar2003 | Wilmington, NC USA | 06/13/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"By C.S.There are artists that only last as long as the current musical trend will allow and others who exude staying power. Somewhere in the middle lie talented music makers that continue to produce albums but are not always recognized for their durability.
For England's Human League the latter has certainly held true but they, like many artists from the Second British Invasion and numerous outfits from the 1980's, have been defined by one major hit.
"Dont You Want Me Baby" from the critically acclaimed "Dare" album was only of the earliest syth pop hits in 1981 on the heels of Gary Numan, The Talking Heads, and The Cars.It became a launching pad for "New Wave", The New Romantic Movement",and a Second British Invasion, filled with bands following in The League's synth -heavy footsteps.
North American audiences were not as hip to the raw U2 like riff attached to "The Lebanon", the first release from the next LP "Hysteria", but the band again struck lightning with the Jimmy Jam /Terry Lewis produced "Human" from " Crash", a bad car wreck of a record that offered little excitement beyond the chart success of the first single.
That sealed the Sheffield based group's fate for a period of time and though "Heart Like A Wheel" was a minor hit from the "Romantic" LP, the campaign for that project from a North American standpoint,went virtually ignored.
Prior to the release of 2001's "Secrets",The League have, despite the perception the group ceased to exist beyond " Crash" (and in the minds of some all the way back to "Dare"), released a few noteworthy records. This is one of them - 1995's "Octopus".
Though the package of songs on this disc are no doubt a straight-foward attempt to re-capture their early success with synth- laden work,make no mistake - the clarity and production is first class. The music is very pretty and in some cases compromised by Philip Oakley's unpolished monotone delivery. Yet it offers some humor to the tracks and his strained appeals to get the message across give Human League it's musical stamp.
Add to the mix the beautiful if not note- perfect vocals of Jo Anne Catherall and Susan Sulley that work well in contrast with Oakley, and what you have here on some levels, an updated version of "Dare",with a touch of techno/trance.
The group also attempt to inter-twine accesible pop into the synth -effect driven tracks, and they fall on their collective faces with a flat arrangement and weak chorus on the Sulley led "One Man In My Heart", but they recover admirably on "Words", a visual track containing atmospheric keyboards that take the listener into a musical time warp. Oakley bolsters the good foundation musically with the key punchline "words come back to haunt you". They build on the momentum with the funk- based flavor of "Filling Up With Heaven", where Sulley and Catherall add enough of a sprinkle of their catchy,elongated vocal riff without overwhelming the explosive hook. Though a natural bass guitar with or without the electro bass would have added a little more firepower, this is a fine piece of of work and offers more substance than the forced sounding first attempt to funk things up on "Tell Me When", the album's opening track.
The combination of trading off vocals and choruses serve this electronic arsenal better on the bouncy "These Are The Days", which goes from pop to emotional with the touch of a key,the vocal challenge issued by Catherall "for once in a lifetime will you use the things you know" on "House Full Of Nothing", and the well structured and slight touch of R&B flavor of "Never Again", though flawed vocally, manages to stays afloat with it's hypnotic backdrop.
Like his female sidekicks, Oakley knows when and where to drop vocal bombshells in sync and independent from song hooks. He opens the aformentioned track with "I'll miss your naked body,I'll miss your mind" then delivers tell it lke it is testimony and pleas for justice on "Cruel Young Lover" with "just because you treat me like a fool dosent make it right. Can't it be so hard to be a little kind and would you be here with me tonite? I got feelings. Sulley and Catherall immediately chime in "dont be unkind", adding the visual effect that they either walked in on an argument or were standing there the whole time.
Add to the collection of songs the heavy on all cylinders dance tune that is "John Cleese: Is He Funny? in reference to the Brit actor/comedian of Monty Python / "A Fish Called Wanda" fame, and "Octopus" is, in totality, a throwback to their early career approach; go heavy on the synthesizers and drop in the smooth vocal melodies. This strategy pre-cludes those that have been exposed to their brand previously to view this album as anything but a re-tread,but upon opening one's ears a couple more spins "Octopus" has enough electricity in it's musical tentacles to shock even the most skeptical. Though the elements are highly progressive and the prejudice against synth-heavy pop from the 80's is still a strong one, songs like "These Are The Days" and " Filling Up With Heaven" could easily sneak up on an un-suspecting listener on late nite radio/ video programming and creep into drive-time rotation without much trouble.
"Octopus" is a record with tight, power-packed production, more originality than expected, once you eliminate the 80's sterotypes,and the cohesiveness of Oakley, Sulley,and Catherall, still make Human League, despite it's roughness around some edges, a novelty compared to others in today's more predictable pop landscape.
Though the whole package of songs may not add up to being their best and lack a hit quite like "Human" or an explosive dance track on the lines with "A Doorway" or "The Stars Are Coming Out" (both from "Romantic"),"Octopus" is a far more seamless effort than it's predecessors ("Crash" and "Romantic"),which elevates it to the "Hysteria" and "Dare" level near the top of the Human League catalog. A couple of bumps in the road (like one or two more danceable tracks)keep the record from peaking to the four and a half to five- star level, but it rates as a strong three (3). C.S.
Popularly Ignored Upon Release - This Is A Hidden Gem!
Get What We Give | Georgia | 01/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Really...it's a shame that Octopus was so ignored upon its release in 1995, because it is an amazing album that should have - by all counts - rocketed The Human League back up the charts. However, I must also remember to temper my praise for the album by the fact that The Human League produced Octopus in such a way that it maintained their "sound," which may have been to many - dated by 1995. And I say, "a pox on all of you who dismissed The Human League for not reinventing themselves."
The 1980's was a time of experimentation for the music industry. I don't have the numbers, but I imagine there were more "one hit wonders" created in the 1980's than in any other decade before or since. I think that's wonderful! Think of all the airplay that so many young, experimental groups got as a result. Think about how the music morphed and ebbed and flowed during that time period. THINK about how happy the music was - largely - and how it has already become a decade where the music is STILL almost as popular now as it was then. The Rolling Stones haven't come up with a new sound...when Duran Duran came up with a new sound their fans abandoned them. When the went back to their original formula, the fans returned. There is no reason a group shouldn't retain a successful sound - fans will remain - they just may not grow their fan base as quickly as before is all.
The Human League actually started up in the 1970's and really had created their "sound" by the early 1980's. When you listen to their blockbuster hit, "Don't You Want Me?" it is, according to Billboard Magazine, as fresh today as it was upon its release. The same can be said for their sound in general, I think.
Octopus has so many really good songs - and far surpasses my "three song requirement" (an album has to have at least three songs I really like before I will buy it). "Tell Me When" is the obvious dance and "chart" song with really invigorating rythm and chorus. "These Are The Days" is driving and peppy and the intro has ....just ever so much B-52's styling to it (sounds like they've used a smoke alarm for the first couple of beats). I love to pop this one in the CD player in the car and drive with the top down at night. "One Man in my Heart" is a love song: Human League style. "Houseful of Nothing" is ever so slightly reminiscent of a Depeche Mode sound coupled with The Human League's distinct style and is quite insightful. "John Cleese: Is He Funny?" is a quick instrumental number that if you stretch you can imagine Cleese's weird movements in play. "Never Again" is possibly my least favorite song on the album as it seems to be a rehash of older songs and is just a bit to slow for this album. However, to say that it is my least favorite is not saying much since I still like the song quite a bit. "Cruel Young Lover" is a staggering step of introspection and pep - very late 1980's sounding.
All in all, you really can't go wrong with this album. And surprisingly, it's not available right now on Amazon except from other sellers. However, what is great about that is that you can pick this CD up for next to nothing. And it is definitely one you should have in your collection."