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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 25 August 2002
An exciting, supremely catchy electro-pop album, with rich textures of analogue sounds that allow it to withstand the scrutiny of repeated listening (and if this electro thing is at all your bag, expect many, many repeat listens!).
On Secrets, The Human League are back on best songwriting form, with lyrics that range from intelligent melodrama to surreal daftness, all showcased by producers (TOY) who pull off the difficult trick of making the songs sound fun and cool at the same time. All I Ever Wanted, Love Me Madly, Shameless and You'll Be Sorry are in the same league (sorry!) as their early 80s smashes, stealing just a hint of Mirwais and Daft Punk (who they influenced anyway) and blending it with their trademark sound. Even the weakest tracks (Liar, Never Give Your Heart) are actually pretty enjoyable and sound like singles - an indication of the consistent quality of this album. The League have only pulled off this trick once before, on the acclaimed Dare.
OK, so it lacks a cheesy mega-hit like Tell Me When to lure you in, but this one works much better as an album. It's failure to seriously dent the charts was one of 2001's biggest pop shames.
But it does mean that if you are one of the few who have this album, you'll be in on a delightful (ahem) Secret.
Magnificent, and sadly misunderstood.
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on 6 December 2001
I read the previous reviews here and thought it sounded excellent - and also as I was due to see them live I thought I'd buy it.
The reviews were correct - absolutely fantastic! Brilliant return to form from the best band of 1981, and now in my opinion the best band of 2001. This is trademark League stuff but is very modern. Great catchy vocals and excellent state-of-the-art electro music.
Gorgeous instrumentals i.e. - "Nervous"
Pounding songs i.e. - "Love Me Madly?"
I'm well chuffed that my childhood favourites have produced such a belting album for 2001, this is the true sequel to "Dare".
Buy it.
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on 11 August 2001
As a Human League music buying fan of 12 years and a fan of hearing their music since I was 8 years old 19 years ago, I have had high expectations of every album they have released since 1988s Greatest Hits. Sadly those 12 years have only seen 3 albums but what Human League have lacked in quantity they have up for in quality a million fold. The new album blew me away on the first listen. Few albums can claim to have music that would all comfortably sit in the mainstream in the 80s, 90s and 2000s but this can with its unique NEW for OLD sound. There are tracks here which hark back to their old stuff circa Travelogue & Reproduction but this is a very upbeat new sounding CD. The general feel is the same as Octopus but this is a far superior work to that. Octopus to me had 3 stand out tracks Tell Me When, Filling Up With Heaven & Houseful Of Nothing (My Favourite) but this is an album where every track is a stand out track. My favourites on this are Love Me Madly, Shameless & Reflections. Its true there is a line in Love Me Madly where Phil says,"Youre like the woman out of species, youre gonna make me go to pieces" but the musical genius of this album makes this OK in context like so many daft Human League lyrics that have gone before. This album is the rightful winner of next years Mercury Music Prize but somehow I doubt it'll be in the nominations. If you are reading this then you obviously have at least a passing interest in this amazing band so if you havent got this CD you must buy it as it will not disappoint. Finally I do advise anyone who likes this album go out and buy the whole back catalogue on CD as I did around 10 years ago as it will enrich your life!
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on 27 July 2001
In a career spanning more than 24 years, The Human League are finally being acknowledged by fellow artist and critics alike as the UK's most important and influential electronic band, and no one has really mastered the art of sound synthesis more than this elusive, self- doubting but closely knit group from Sheffield. Secrets opens with the glorious forthcoming single All I Ever Wanted. Deliciously catchy, easily matching the brilliance of past triumphs such as Tell Me When, Love Action & Fascination. Other than the classic melody with its pounding bass line, it's the vocal interaction between Phil and the girls that really makes the song work and all three are in great vocal shape. It's a single that will sound perfect on the radio if it gets the airplay it deserves, and stands up to repeated listens something that is typical of the entire album. Next up is the first of several instrumentals that act as musical interludes though some have been fully expanded.
Track 2 is the first of such interludes called Nervous and it's a warm analogue melody that hints at some of the sounds you will hear later on the album. At just 2 minutes long, it leaves you wanting more but before you know it you are grabbed instantly by the third track Love Me Madly. This is a manic yet humorous look at obsessive and dangerous relationships. 'Your like the woman outta Species, I think I'm gonna go to pieces!' sings Phil to a relentless techno base line. At one point, the object of Phil's dismay is likened to a gorilla before admitting he's 'getting jealous of the doormat'. A third of the way through this track there is an irresistible instrumental break and the single should be served well by remixes when released in the autumn.
Track 4 Shameless for me is the album's highlight.. A slow tempo track that could be compared to Romantic's stand out track The Stars Are Going Out full of atmosphere but more contemporary. Containing a superb instrumental break in this track where the girls voices have been sampled to create another haunting melody. Crystal clear production and high quality bleeps make this track very hypnotic and once again the vocals are excellent.
122.3 BPM is the second instrumental that stands up on its own with a Kraftwerk-like tecno beat, but once again it is way too short lasting just over a minute.
Never Give Your Heart could be described as Secrets answer to One Man in My Heart except that it is much better. It's the closest Secrets comes to a ballad and like some tracks on the album, it grabs you after a few listens. Susan takes the lead on this track, but the real highlight is the melody and effect overdubs giving the track a lot of depth
Ran is a blissful instrumental containing a brief sample from the previous track. Susan & Joanne ask 'join us' as soon as Ran ends for the intro of the next vocal track The Snake. This is another Mode sounding track with a dark and harsh Bass line but the girls echoing vocals lighten things up. 'From the town to the country from the country to the town - come and join us' sings Phil and the girls and after being seduced by this album, you probably will. Ringinglow is one of the instrumental highlights that matches past classics such as Hard Times and contains a sample of Phil's vocal from the previous track.
Track 10 could be likened to the demented sister of Love Me Madly. Liar is another slice of furious techno on the subject of torturous relationships. High tempo and manic with angry synth sounds similar to the effects Madonna's producer Mirwais achieves.
Lament is an all-too brief interlude lasting just for one minute that fades into another of the album's real gems Reflections. This track is typical of the musical evolution the League have undertaken. Something of an epic lasting 6 minutes, Toy's production skills have really gone into overdrive on this one. A moody track that occasionally displays a hard edge with Phil's heavily treated vocals with just the right amount of electro distortion. What is so typical of the album and this track in particular is how well the girl's vocals have been used to their full potential. Susan & Jo repeat the line 'Demons of the mind' over another haunting and atmospheric melody with multiple layers of analogue bleeps and memorable synth sounds
Brute is an instrumental straight from Reproduction & Travelogue era (possibly using the same instruments!) and its so typically Human League and reminds me in places of the Dignity of Labour EP.
Sin City is yet another album highlight (there are no throwaway filler tracks on Secrets). It has an almost sparse electro feel to the intro and verses but things become intense with a great vocal chorus from the girls and it's better than any of the album tracks on Octopus. The final instrumental Release is the best of the non-vocal tracks with a catchy synth lead and lovely sounds. They should have held this one back to add vocals to it at a latter stage and with a running time of just 2 minutes, its irritatingly short.
The concluding track You'll be Sorry initially struck me as the albums weakest song, but after repeated listens it has lodged itself in my brain particularly the line 'You'll be sorry in the morning if you leave me in the evening today' - a typical display of the Oakey logic we all know and love. You'll be Sorry is an upbeat track that has an almost 60's feel to it in terms of melody. Doesn't feel right as the final track, perhaps Reflections would have made a better finale to a brilliant album?
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on 28 July 2001
Die-hard fans of Sheffield Synth Superstars find it very difficult to fill space between the release of different Human League records. The years that pass between the release of new material can be very frustrating, but thankfully for everyone - this is well worth the wait. 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; fillers? Don't make me laugh! 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 amplify 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 nod to a favourite. 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.  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. This is the album of the year folks - a modern classic. Enjoy!
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on 16 August 2001
Yes it's true.
Finally The Human League have put together an album that ranks alongside their first releases. Secrets can safely be put alongside Reproduction and Travelogue as wicked electronic albums.
This release is beautifully recorded with electronic slabs of music rushing over you from first to the last.
At 51 minutes this album is purely perfect. When it's finished you'll play it again and again,each new play reveals more. An album full of ideas with no filler,incredible after such a long wait with indifferent albums preceding this release.
Gone are the "real" instruments now The League are back to doing what they do best - playing perfect electronic music!
With Reproduction and Travelogue they were the best - now they are rightfully returned,but this is no retro 1980's act,re-hashing tired old ideas - this album is bang upto date.
Phil Oakey has rediscovered his sense of humour and imagination - all this and more is revealed in this album.
Dare to be different - go buy this CD and enjoy!!
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on 3 November 2001
This isn't a comeback - it's a rebirth. I have the oddest feeling that these guys have been toying with us for the past 15 years or so, just for kicks, & just to see the look on our faces after producing this superb effort. Swine! After "Dare", there were some 'interesting' experiments which ran into the buffers through "Crash" with, as one reviewer has said, the exception of "Human" - which was like a warm bath in liquid League. I have the greatest affection for "Hysteria" for purely personal reasons, but that doesn't make it a great piece of work. This album is in an entirely different league (forgive the pun) & makes many contemporary electro dance artistes look decidedly limp. Let's face it, Oakey's voice could knock down a barn door at fifty yards & "Love Me madly" is for me the best thing since "Cruel Young Lover" - which itself deserved to be a massive hit but wasn't for some strange reason. The girls do what they have always done best, round off the electro edges with Crazy Daisy Saturday night ordinariness - & stop the League taking themselves too seriously (not something one could say about many groups these days). Apologies to a previous reviewer but the instrumental pieces simply enhance & develop the themes in the songs - they are most certainly NOT fillers. "122.3 BPM" deserves to be huge on the dancefloor, if any Selector has an ounce of intelligence. There is darkness here, there is wit: most of all, however, there is class & a feeling that the League have finally exorcised some professional demons. This is a totally cracking album - buy it.
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on 1 October 2002
Minimal publicity for the latest 'League opus, but it's been worth it. "Octopus" was a major return to form, and "Secrets" matches that. Fans of big synths will love this album, it's very electronic and all the better for it. This is great stuff.
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on 15 November 2001
I am a very casual fan of the Human League. I bought Dare! when it came out in the early 80s because of "Don't You Want Me". I liked the album and bought the next one, which had a couple of good songs, but I didn't care for the rest. I more or less ignored the band after that with the exception of liking the rare track that got airplay here in the U.S.
I picked up this album out of sheer curiosity and was blown away. I have since bought Octopus and think it is an OK album but clearly inferior to this one. Secrets is a great listen and the best album I have heard in a very long time. It is dancable, bright, dark, interesting, and consistently good. The only track I really don't like is "Liar" (can't stand the chorus). Virtually every other track is a real winner.
Give this album a chance, it's a breath of fresh air and was a very pleasant surprise for me.
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on 29 July 2001
It may have been six years since the League's last album 'Octopus',but this one has certainly been worth the wait. Secrets is a return to form,where the band have got back to what they are best at, Corking POP tunes.
The album starts with the classic League sounding single 'All I Ever Wanted' just to remind you how great they were,but this is no retro album!
There are 16 tracks on Secrets(9 vocal and 7 instrumental interludeds)and all could be singles that how strong it is.'Shameless' and 'You'll Be Sorry' are all top tunes.'Refelections' harks back to League of old with its analogue blips and distorted vocals .The instrumental tracks are not here as fillers as they stand up on their own and show what the future may hold for the band,From the pounding '122.3bpm' to the ambient 'Lament'.
'Secrets' is one of the few albums you can listen to from begining to end and not have to skip tracks.
It only goes to show you can never write off The Human League.
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