Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Open Your Heart"

Opinions are sharply divided about the 80s and the music that decade brought us. For some, it began with a sartorial car-crash and only got worse - think Steve Strange, for example. Musically, it was the apogee of the transistor, the era when electronics made it possible for anyone to make music as long as they had enough time to learn how to program a drum machine.
For others, it was liberation, fun, freedom of expression, the works. Men wore makeup, women found new and more exciting ways in which to back-comb their hair and the ozone layer staggered under the weight of all the extra CFCs we sprayed on our heads.
To me, the Human League were the 80s. Maybe because they seemed to do it better than anyone else, marrying the image with the music so well. When the first few New Romantic singles began to make an impact ("Are "Friends" Electric?", for example), the whole scene seemed to be cold, distant, slow and ponderous. But then the Human League brought it all down to a more human (sic) level, their songs imbued with real emotions, real soap-opera dramas.
This is my favourite song of theirs; the sympathy, the solidarity, the killer chorus, the sheer force of emotion overcoming the cold, robotic, computer-perfect music. It doesn't hurt that the drum machines drive the song along at a clattering pace, that Phil Oakey's voice just about holds onto the song, and that the lyric was just made for lifting spirits: "And if you can pass the test/You know your worst is better than their best." A little bit of stardust among all the calculation.

1 comment:

Cocaine Jesus said...

I am one of those who slag off the 80's BUT it wasn't all bad.
Makeup was ten years out of date and was part of the Glam period.I know cos I did that scene.
As I say it wasn't all bad, just OK in comparison to what went before and what came after.
The Human League were very much a defining part of the 80's.