Recording information: Pig View; The Bowling Green; The Human League.
Photographer: Spiros Politis.
Thirty years may have passed since their landmark album Dare! helped to define the early-'80s electro scene, but the Human League's signature sound remains just as relevant today thanks to synth pop starlets like La Roux, Ladyhawke, and in particular, Little Boots, who collaborated with lead vocalist Phil Oakey on her 2009 debut, Hands. For Credo, their their first studio album since 2001's Secrets, the Sheffield trio don't require much of a makeover in order to compete with their younger upstarts. Produced by lounge-pop revivalists I Monster (whose Dean Honer also worked with Oakey on the All Seeing I's Top 30 single "First Man in Space"), there are admittedly a few modern concessions, such as the heavy use of Auto-Tune on the robotic disco of opening track "Never Let Me Go," the nods to acid house on "Electric Shock," and the drum'n'bass leanings of the industrial closer "When the Stars Start to Shine." But otherwise it's business as usual, with Catherall and Sulley's half-hearted detached tones combining with Oakey's trademark booming baritone on the likes of "Sky," a melancholic fusion of brooding basslines, kaleidoscopic bleeps, and lost love lyrics; the new wave call and response of "Breaking the Chains," and the stuttering synths and avant-garde theatrics of "Privilege," the latter of which Oakey admitted is a deliberate attempt to recapture the spirit of their 1979 debut, Reproduction. However, apart from "Night People," a pulsating slice of bubbling electro featuring a Dalek-inspired chorus and bizarre lyrics which rhymes "houses" with "mouses", Credo never really comes close to matching the infectious joy of "Don't You Want Me," "Love Action," or even their last major hit, "Tell Me When," its sparse arrangements and lack of memorable melodies, making it difficult to distinguish the majority of its 11 tracks from one another. With their influential sound currently back in vogue, Credo could have been the perfect opportunity to prove to their devotees that they haven't lost their touch, but although there are a few flashes of their heyday's magic, it's a strangely low-key affair which is unlikely to inspire any future synth pop maestros. ~ Jon O'Brien