on 1 April 2015
I have had a copy of this album since it was first released in 1980. On good old vinyl (it still plays perfectly), and then on CD (now on my third copy, so that goes to show just how indestructible CD's actually are). Travelogue is my favourite Human League album - it is not as 'cold' as Reproduction, although it is still very dark in places, qv. 'A Crow And A Baby'. However, the pop sensibility is starting to percolate through; 'Life Kills', the superb rework of 'Being Boiled', and the lo-fi sci-fi of 'The Black Hit Of Space', will all generate earworms. The icing on the cake, though, has to be the wonderful 'WXJL Tonight', a sad paean to the death of the proper local radio station: "Ten thousand Watts of power/News headlines on the hour/Our music beats the best/You just don't need the rest." It stuck with me the first time I heard it, and I still love it, 35 years later. The CD remaster is crisp, although the original vinyl version was pretty good anyway. There are some interesting bonus tracks, too. I have them as vinyl singles, so the CD saves me from playing them, as some are rather obscure. For example, there are the tracks 'Boys And Girls', and 'Tom Baker', which was the first single released after Human League mk.1 split up. Awkwardly, this was Martyn Ware, and Ian Craig Marsh, who were the musicians, who then became BEF/Heaven 17, and Phil Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright, who were the vocalist and visuals man respectively. The two Phils didn't really play anything, or have a plan of action, the trouble being that they had a Human League tour imminent. So they went clubbing. And Phil Oakey saw two 18 year old schoolgirls, Joanne Catherall, and Susanne Sulley dancing in Sheffield's 'Crazy Daisy' nightclub. Oakey persuaded them to join the Human League. 'Boys And Girls' is the first record they sang on. The rest is history. The other rare track here is 'I Don't Depend On You', credited to 'The Men', which is actually Human League mk.1, performing a track written for the raunchy dance troupe Hot Gossip. It's a good pop song, which should have made the charts. All in all, Travelogue is possibly the most complete Human League album, and well worth a listen, even now.
Following the issue of 'The Golden Hour of The Future' & the deluxe reissue of 'Dare/Love&Dancing' comes this, the second album from The Human League. The original ten-track album from 1980 comes replete with seven great bonus tracks- which along with the 17-track edition of 1979's 'Reproduction' captures pretty much the whole output of the Oakey-Ware-Marsh(& Wright) incarnation of the League, prior to Oakey's pop re-branding & Ware/Marsh's forays into the BEF and Heaven 17.
This is a much more hardcore Human League, steeped in bleak Ballard-SF and having a sound more in common with Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide & Throbbing Gristle. The music is minimal & littered with lyrics more akin to Joy Division than Chic; 'Life Kills' is a particular joy, a definite influence on the early releases from Soft Cell & more of a protest against an automated sytsem of work than Kraftwerk's teutonic approval of men machine. Toyota City and Gordon's Gin are great instrumentals, which along with the bonus cuts of DanceVision, Tom Baker & Cruel explore this side of the League...
'Dreams of Living' is a little dull, a bit of a non-event with the bagpipe noise Heaven 17 would use on the 83 re-recording of 'Let's all Make a Bomb'. 'Crow & a Baby' is much better, "the result was a dare" pointing to the future of the League (think of songs like Darkness & Seconds). Not sure what Oakey's going on about, but I'd rather have that than 'The Lebanon'...'The Black Hit of Space' is almost hip-hop- SF textures like Eric B & Rakim meeting the European world of stuff like Wire's 'The Other Window' or Associates 'Message/Speech'.
'The Touchables' sounds a little more pop, making movements towards a more perfect sound- reminding me a little of 'Empires&Dance'-Simple Minds. The version of 'Being Boiled' (recently used on the Richard-Liberty X single 'Being Nobody') is not the original 'Fast Records'-version found on 'Reproduction' or 88s 'Greatest Hits' (which got to #6 in 1982)- but a rerecorded version assisted by producer John Leckie (Simple Minds, Stone Roses, Radiohead). It's good fun, even if a bit obscure (the horrors of sericulture- a bit of a minor target in the post Khmer Rouge backdrop of 1979/80!)- I prefer the 1978 version; note that Midge Ure & co owe this a debt for Visage's 'Fade to Grey'. The album proper ends on 'WXJL Tonight' , which ties in with Bowie's 'DJ' from 79's 'Lodger' - apocalyptic stuff, this version of the League about to hit a brick wall...
The extra tracks see the League move towards a vision that is more pop-inflected, the 'Holiday 80' ep saw them appear on Top of the Pops (performing a cover of Gary Glitter's 'Rock&Roll', which is here in a medley with 'The Idiot's 'NightClubbing'- which was also covered by Grace Jones). Cover versions were a specialty for the League- see their version of The 4 Tops 'Reach Out' on The Future release, their 'Reproduction'-take on 'You've Lost That Lovin Feelin' or the cover of Mick Ronson's 'Only After Dark' on 'Travelogue' .From this ep 'Marianne' has more in common with the earlier material, while 'Dancevision' is another 'Low'-styled instrumental.
Another single included here is Tom Baker/Boys & Girls- the former more SF instrumental fun, the latter seeing Oakey write with Phillip Adrian Wright- though sounding little like the results evident on the later Dare. The best single & major rarity here is The Men's I Don't Depend on You/Cruel- the League experimenting under another moniker with 'Reproduction'/'Secondhand Daylight'-producer Colin Thurston. A Chic influence is most evident, a blend of electronic & funk with soulful backing vocals that look towards both Dare & Penthouse and Pavement. A great song, even if it hasn't got much of a chorus!
Travelogue sits up there with the best electronic albums of the late 70s, early 80s: Penthouse & Pavement, Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Affectionate Punch, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, the 2nd Suicide album, Sons & Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, Speak& Spell or Moroder's 'E=MC2'. It's a joy in this edition, at a budget price & with these extra tracks; though be warned: the League post-Dare and H17 post 83 are pretty much a waste of time!(exceptions: the 2nd BEF album & the most recent League album- where they really tried for the first time in years!).
on 6 June 2011
By 1980 The Human Leauge (still consisting of Oakey/Marsh/Ware), had decided to forget about the distasters of the year before and think about new possibilties. 'Travelouge' is a prime example of the late MK1 Human Leauge, not as poppy as 'Dare', but not as grim and forboding as 'Reproduction'. However 'Travelouge' has that wonderful spark of creativity that all early Human Leauge tracks had, (even Dare). Travelouge does contain a lot of covers, like 'Gordon's Gin', 'Only After Dark', and, on the extra tracks 'Rock'n'Roll/Nightclubbing'. Aside this, there is a brilliant stereo remix of 'Being Boiled' (included on the Holiday '80 EP). 'Being Boiled' may be the Leauge's original signature song from two years earlier, but this final version beats them all in being the most modern, dark sounding version with a violent, thumping clap beat and loud, accentuated synths over the top. Other tracks include 'Toyota City', an ambient, oscilating track, the strange 'Crow and a Baby', which I don't think I will ever know the meaning of, and the haunting and brilliant 'W.X.J.L Tonight', along with the equally brilliant'The Black Hit Of Space'. All these tracks (plus the extras), make up a creative and very listenable album which has some real quality. The extra tracks include the slightly scary 'Tom Baker', (originally a single), and the more conventional 'I Don't Depend On You'/'Cruel', which was a single realeased under the name of 'The Men'. 'Dancevision', oddly, is included, which is one of the many demonstration tracks by Ian Craig-Marsh and Martin as The Future back in 1977. ('Dancevision' is also included on the 'Golden Hour Of The Future' EP). Overall, 'Travelouge' is a excellent listen that really emphasises the MK1 Human Leauge in all their glory (as Travelouge took them into the charts). If you are a fan of early synth music as well, (Gary Numan/Carbaret Voiltare), then I strongly reccomend this album.
on 20 December 2005
Amazing album, leaves me breathless every time I listen to it.
I bought this on vinyl many many years ago and still get the same kick every time.
Nothing like the Human League most people will recognise.
For anyone who likes electronic music, this is a must.
And while you're at it, buy Reproduction as well.
on 10 December 2011
Before selling out to commercialism, The Human League produced this astonishing album with tracks establishing themselves as benchmarks in their own right for progressive sound with a dexterity not heard in many other albums at the time or even after. Try sampling "The Black Hit of Space" and "Dreams of Leaving" and you will understand.
on 2 September 2010
If you are a fan of electronic music the first two Human League albums are a must to own. Being a Sheffielder and remembering the heady days when these lads could be seen regulaly in the local pubs I will have some bias towards the Human League and rated them better the The Cabs and up there with The Com Sat Angels. A superb album with Phils lyrics and Ian Marsh and Martyn Wares music standing the test of time unabowed. Life Kills is well worth taking notice of in todays rush about world and other tracks such as Dreams of leaving, The crow and the baby and Being boiled are gems. Over all Travelogue and Reproduction are two pieces of musical genius that everyone should have in thier collection.
on 11 May 2009
Both epic, in terms of scope and ambition, and personal, Phil Oakey's lyrics often dealt with issues and opinions on the world; this is a quiet masterpiece from the Sheffield-based pioneers of electronica. Different from their later more commercal synth-pop, this was recorded by the band's first incarnation: Oakey, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, and is more experimental, more futuristic and utterly thrilling on its first release. The sounds still stand up today, and it's easy to see how the League have influenced a host of modern electro bands.
on 2 October 2010
Buy Reproduction, too, and compare. Travelogue is a bit corny, tongue in cheek and the sound, even Phil said, is like pebbles rattling round in a can. Reproduction reeks of creativity. What a pity they couldn't do two of them, they really hit the nail with it.
on 1 March 2013
the second album by the Human League - still all the original members in the band - a good cd but not quite as good as the first I feel but still worth having - 9/10
Inappropriate record cover, or not, I'm both rather ashamed and rather glad that it took me almost thirty years (that's two-thirds of my entire life!) from buying and enjoying the League's Dare - as we all did, until getting Travelogue.
As a complete and utter teenage fan of those heady, buzzy electronic marvels that were perfect pop songs from the classic, multi platinum selling Dare, I was always going to be interested in other stuff by them.
For me, their Best Of compilation is spoiled by their post Dare stuff - when they abandoned the total-snyth sound. Phil's rather flat and nasally voice just needs robotic and electronic accompaniment. That meant that I was to go backwards.
Being Boiled has always been one of those underground cult tracks - it was hardly a hit but is well known enough and as such was remixed several times. Great to get immersed into the original of that again. I wasn't expecting miracles and just so - no miracles except I love the eerie single synth intro to track no. 8 - Gordon's Gin, which turns out to be an instrumental.
There are many golden flashes of inspiration that were pre-emptors and nods to greater things, once the songs for Dare had been written. Great layering of tracks and an air of Kraftwerk at times, mixed with dollops of Georgio Moroder (who Phil was to collaborate with later).
This CD comes with an extra seven tracks, adding to the original ten. It's all very listenable with none that made me want to skip a track, or two. Many of these seven extras are covers and are interesting rather than inspiring.
Giving more than the four stars I did would only belittle really great albums - this album has had greatness thrust upon it; its realisation - and thus its charm - is all rather nicely unpolished and loosely packaged, as a whole.
But a must-have for BEF and League fans, whatever their age. And a lot more interesting than most stuff churned out today.