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HAVING STUMBLED, QUITE ACCIDENTALLY UPON THE HUMAN LEAGUE IN 1995, it took some time to back catalogue their extensive collection of work. At the time, and some years on, Octopus and Dare! seemed to stick out as the firm favorites with the other albums offering a few decent tracks, and frankly some very appalling ones (notably Rock Me Again 6x being a clear indication of poor judgement). Nowadays, I am older and wiser enough to recognize that Octopus fell short of something potentially big. The paltry offering of nine tracks, with a notably disjointed feel to the whole album gave you the sense that our Phil had something greater he wanted to say, but had fallen short by a few words.
NOW IN 2001, the imminent arrival of Secrets has provoked an excitement among the die-hards - something that I have experienced for the first time. Coming in post-Octopus, there was the 'talk' of new work for some four years before, I guess, people got thoroughly bored. It was back to downloading the classic B-sides and demo sessions from Napster. And there's always a nagging sense in anyone's mind. Will the group score a hit? Is the album worth the six years of emptiness? Can the League be enigma to all once again?
SECRETS is more than a reward for the wait. We are presented with sixteen adventurous, creative and innovative tracks. Phil's lyrical style is back in order - with humour, fear, lust, rage and dispair all weaving through the words. And where, in the case of 7 of the tracks, there are no words - the emotion is still very strong. There are some silly lyrics that will cause critics to have fun with their pens "Woman from species/make me go to pieces" but its all round winning material, with each song explorative of Oakey's writing talent.
THE MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE of listening to Secrets is the advancement of the synthesizes and vocal effects that enhance the unique sound of the League. It becomes very difficult to listen to the blandness of John Cleese's pitch shifter when you tog your graphic equalizer on this collections of instrumentals. They are laced with overlaying synth effects, such that you really need to concentrate to catch the really amazing weaving and joining under-tones to each track.
IT'S HARD AT THIS POINT TO PLACE A FAVORITE. Even some months after I got hold of All I Ever Wanted, Never Give You Heart (Enhanced in its positioning on the album), and Love Me Madly - the tracks fail to fade behind the others. "Liar" is manic, and is a clear testament to the League's influence on the sounds that are so common in a clubber's experience. Joanne's little "Pathological" will bring grins to faces throughout the League-loving brigade, sweet but sinister - "You're a liar!" It sounds absolutely fantastic through loud speakers, bass adjusted to full. Prepare to feel your pulse pick up a beat or two and a desire to run around the house. It would be a fantastic live track.
REFLECTIONS also stands as a true classic. It has HL's trademark splashed all over the lyrics and score. The song is a neat collection of synth sounds (cleverly introduced by a short instrumental called Lament before). The lyrics are beautifully emotive about life around the League's world. Its tragic, but full of hope. There's a sense of darkness about the song, and with over six minutes - you feel that it fills its potential. There are reflections "in dark and light they dance around me". You get the same impressions of lost words, lost opportunity and memories of 'something really good' - but imminent danger waits ahead. It is truly a masterpiece of a song and stands already as one of their best yet.
IN THE OPINION of Jason, Secrets is a great, complete and innovative album. The advancement of the Human League and the additional support of, clearly a respectful production team, has produced my favourite album to date. It is on loop, and each time a track comes around again - I discover something brand new.