Although far removed from the adventurous group that had long ago dabbled in minimilist, almost avant-garde electronics, all these years later the Human League continued to take its pop seriously. "One Man in My Heart" could have been a total throwaway, a gloopy little love song without a single redeeming quality, beloved by grannies and tweenies, gag-inducing for those outside those age parameters. But the band obviously gave the number time and attention, and thus ensured that it can't be so easily dismissed. Inserting a much sampled electro effect into the intro, creating an intriguingly intricate rhythm, counterpointing swelling, lush synths with a palpitating '70s-styled organ, layering on vocals and harmonies, and conjuring up a romantic milieu flushed with delicate atmospheres, the group produced a love song unlike virtually all typical pop fodder. The work, effortless as it sounds on disc, paid off, and this 1995 single swept into the U.K. Top 15.
Simple Mind's second single, "Chelsea Girl", was an apt follow-up to its predecessor "Life in a Day", an epic chant, a shimmering melody, and a sing-along chorus that paid spell-bound homage to Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico, in her role within Warhol’s movie of the same name.
Producer John Leckie gives "Chelsea Girl" a lovely delicate quality, especially across the long, tinkling keyboard intro, an aura that barely dissipates even when drummer Brian McGee and bassist Derek Forbes's kick in with their thumping rhythm. The band were proving to be masters at these juxtaposed styles, creating rock solid bases and overlaying them with much more fragile and elegant melodies and atmospheres. Here, those latter are close to effervescent and, as the band shift down into the long bass-driven, overlapping tag teamed vocal outro (a playful lift from Roxy Music’s ”Mother Of Pearl”, but no matter), absolutely crystalline.
On album and onstage, ”Chelsea Girl” remained fans' favorite, on 45 though, it inexplicably crashed and burned, and didn't even reach the UK chart.
The leadoff track of the Psychedelic Furs' 1980 self-titled debut LP takes the lead of Brian Eno's influential work with David Bowie and his own Roxy Music and merges it with the energy, attitude, and bombast of punk rock. After a stark and sublimely beautiful synthesizer-soundscape introduction, Vince Ely's drums abruptly pound in with echoing tom toms. The rest of the band launches into a one- or two-chord assault that gives little indication of the poppier direction the group would take on later records. But the power demonstrated here on "India" remained as an undercurrent of almost all of the band's later work, even if only implied at times. And if one listens closely, there is even a bit of melody amidst the Fall-like (and by extension, Stooges and Can-like) rhythmic pummeling. Producer Steve Lillywhite was already enjoying an early peak in his recording career with this album and U2's 1980 debut, Boy, forging a sound that bridged late-'70s punk with 1980s shine and texture.
from The Psychedelic Furs (Columbia CK-36791), available on CD
An even funkier hit single than "Sledgehammer" ? which had an epic groove but was too slow to actually dance to ? "Big Time" is a sardonic response to yuppie materialism with the funniest lyrics of Peter Gabriel's entire career. (The ending of the song, stopping just before the obvious punch line to all this discussion of how preternaturally huge everything in Gabriel's charmed life is, is a small moment of brilliance.) But the brilliance of the song is in the way it ties all that Gabriel had been learning about African percussion and Middle Eastern melodies ever since the days of his third solo album and ties them all into the service of a walloping great groove, making plain the connections between North Africa and Stax-Volt once and for all. The combination of talking drum and wah-wah guitar owes as much to Booker T and the MGs as it does to King Sunny Ade, which is both the key to "Big Time" and a clue as to why Gabriel's later, more explicitly world music focused albums just aren't as much fun.
Following shortly on the heels of Of Skins and Heart, "Tear It All Away" still was the picture of a developing band, but one already more comfortable with the studio, able to use subtlety and quiet drama to inform its cool, soothing yet tense take on post-punk filtered through psychedelic touches. The familiar Byrds-derived guitar and Bowie-tinged lyrical regret and sighing crop up as they so often would in the earliest days, but there's a clean, blue tinge to the whole performance, something that feels inexpressively like an eighties recording rather than a sixties throwback. Call it the space in the mix, the gentle keyboards here and there, or the substituting of folk and country roots for something more urban and faster-paced. The lovely mid-song solos show the Marty Willson-Piper/ Peter Koppes team still well within its element, and the whole composition has a rich, lush feeling to it that's most attractive.
from Of Skins and Heart (Arista ARCD-8563), available on CD