(On Gang of Four and The Human League)
In the previous issue, I profiled the classic New Wave bands Blancmange and Crowded House. Now, here are another two pioneering bands from the genre each of which has also released an album of new materials this year.
The Human League. Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, by Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (guitar, synthesizer) with Philip Oakey, who was invited to become the vocalist. The band had several personnel changes during the span of its career, but Oakey and female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley are the ones who have remained in the group to this day. The Synthpop-heavy Human League has released nine studio albums: Reproduction (1979), Travelogue (1980), Dare (1981), Hysteria (1984), Crash (1986), Romantic? (1990), Octopus (1995), Secrets (2001), and the latest, Credo (2011). Recommended song off each album: “Blind Youth,” “Life Kills,” “Don’t You Want Me,” “The Lebanon,” “Human,” “Heart like a Wheel,” “One Man in My Heart,” “Love Me Madly,” and “Breaking the Chains.” Furthermore, contrary to what many assume, the international hit single “Together in Electric Dreams” is not a Human League song; instead, it was released under the moniker Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder as part of the original soundtrack of the 1984 film Electric Dreams.
Gang of Four. Formed in 1977 in Leeds, England, by Andy Gill (guitarist) and Jon King (vocals) with Dave Allen (bass) and Hugo Burnham (drums), Gang of Four has released seven studio albums: Entertainment! (1979), Solid Gold (1981), Songs of the Free (1982), Hard (1983), Mall (1991), Shrinkwrapped (1995), and the latest, Content (2011). The music of Gang of Four is a mix of the grating angularity of the guitars, funky bass lines and drumbeats, and politically charged lyrics. Recommended song off each album: “Damaged Goods,” “Paralysed,” “Muscle for Brains,” “A Man with a Good Car,” “Money Talks,” “I Parade Myself,” and “You Don’t Have to Be Mad.”
R.E.M. might have broken up recently, which is certainly a sad news for enthusiasts of Postpunk and New Wave music, the American band being very influential and iconic; but I’m sure that there will be more albums to come from other classic and pioneering bands of the genres. Besides, like what usually happens with band members who go their separate ways to pursue individual musical directions only to reform after several years to make music together once again, R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills might only be needing a temporary break from one another. In the meantime, enthusiasts should just enjoy the music of currently active New Wave bands like Crowded House, Blancmange, The Human League, and Gang of Four.