The Human League’s “Credo:” Still Vexing After All These Years

Well, the promo shot was interesting…

Was it really a dozen years ago when The Human League managed to release their last album… a full decade following their previous disc, the generally decent “Secrets?” I remember seeing the video for “Night People” on Vinny Vero’s “So Hip It Hurts” blog and I made a note that I should get this new Human League album, even though the band following their career making “Dare” album were almost more wildly variable in quality than Duran Duran were; no mean feat!

<insert eight year gap…>

Considering that I was okay with the song of “Night People” at the time…I can only wonder what was going through my mind at the time, because when I finally bought my copy of this in 2019, “Night People” featured little to soothe my ears; and that was not the worst the album had to offer!

Wall Of Sound | UK | CD | 2011 | WOS085CD

The Human League: Credo – UK – CD [2011]

  1. Never Let Me Go
  2. Night People
  3. Sky
  4. Into The Night
  5. Egomaniac
  6. Single Minded
  7. Electric Shock
  8. Get Together
  9. Privilege
  10. Breaking The Chains
  11. When The Stars Start To Shine

And it had the temerity to give us its worst right up front. “Never Let Me Go” began sounding like an old Jam + Lewis League track from 1986 as playing on a transistor radio speaker. When the soundfield expanded to move to the fore, I wished that it hadn’t. This was one of the rare songs that Susanne and/or Joanne [I can’t tell their voices apart after 42 years…!] sang lead on. The producers, I Monster, made the annoying decision to take what sounded like a track from the worst Human League album [though that’s debatable] and to liberally slather Auto-Tune® to the vocals. Sounding so 1998 was not a smart gambit. I would argue that Auto-Tune®, irrespective of its being considered on or off-trend, was never an attractive effect. [Monk casts side-eye glances in the direction of Brian Eno and John Foxx to make his point]

It was facile cyberpop from one of the foundational bands of synth music. The League once more seemed to be guest stars on their own album. And the caliber of the music, written largely by Robert Barton and Phil Oakey left much to be desired. I’ll assume that Oakey was responsible for the banal lyrical content. The charm of a tune like “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of” was evident 42 years ago when it [and the production built around it] were both novel. 42 years later it all sounds very tired. Much like the design of the album and its singles.

“Night People” was far worse a song than I had recalled from the time of it. The stentorian vocals of Oakey were flattened by his mechanical, staccato delivery. Hitting every syllable on a beat for a leaden, tedious effect. How relevant is it for fifty years olds to be singing the praises of club life? Some things should be left to the young. Especially with the howler lyrics that Oakey felt comfortable serving up.

Gather up your skirts and trousers
Put on your best frocks and blouses
Time to go out from your houses
Must we creep round like the mouses

“Night People”

The Mellotron effects in “Sky” clashed mightily with the rest of the freeze-dried production, and the topline had the cheek to draw heavily from Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light” while avoiding the melodic payoff that Rundgren made certain to provide. Again, the lyrics were half-baked. Leaving us with more of a fragment of a song. And hearing Oakey lean in so heavily to his staccato phrasing on the middle eight made it seem several bars longer than it probably was.

“Into The Night” at least had an interesting beat but once more Oakey’s fear of actually singing rendered the pacing leaden. I have to wonder if the producers were behind this creative decision as it would have allowed them to manipulate the vocals more easily. And this album was about nothing if not manipulating vocals.

The hint of Acid on “Electric Shock” provided only residual thrills and the vocal and instrumental tracks were quantized to within an inch of their lives. The grid in this music was so prevalent that it was all I was hearing. The actual music was rendered ineffectual by the completely mechanical vibe that was depressingly rote and deadened. Listening to this music was like being hit on the head by scaffolding.

There were hints of something of interest among the greeting cards as written by AI lyrics. “Privilege” certainly stuck out like a sore thumb here. Almost reaching back to the vibe of “I Am The Law” with suitably dehumanized BVs from Oakey with a touch of vocoder. “Breaking The Chains” might be the one good song here. It actually flows instead of being cooped up in a rigid box. But then the concluding “When The Stars Start To Shine” said “give me more of those boxes!” The flat, colorless music and methodical tempos with the coup de grace of staccato vocals just conspired to make me yearn for the album’s end.

Tedium was what The Human League with the I, Monster production team delivered here. Sensing another Mr. Hudson/Duran Duran scenario here, I looked up I, Monster and saw that Robert Barton was the drummer of Venini; the post-Pulp band of Russell Senior. Apart from “Credo” there’s little on Discogs to investigate afterward. Dean Honer was a member of Add N to [X], the late 90s-early noughties electro band on Mute that I ignored, owing to their disgusting and misogynistic album cover that repulsed me.

I have to say that “Credo” bored me, rather than repulsed. After 42 years following “Dare” and just six albums to show for it, I’m of the opinion that Phil Oakey is the luckiest man in Pop. The two members of the band who had the interesting musical ideas left, and then a perfect storm of management scheming, production savvy, and the zeitgeist itself made for “Dare” to hit with a megaton payload of hits and influence, but following that, it’s been hit and miss for The League; mostly misses.

Maybe Oakey just isn’t cut out to be doing this? When he had the two fellow oddballs to bounce ideas off of, they came up with “The Black Hit Of Space.” His “barking mad” lyrics had a sympathetic environment in which to percolate outward to malcontents like myself. The freak hit [that Oakey famously hated himself] changed The Human League from a freak show to a hits machine. And maybe that was the band’s downfall. Even if I listened to a tape of “the song”Don’t You Want Me” from college radio [WPRK-FM played it as an import in the late 1981 period] for over an hour straight after hearing it for the first time! The three albums that I enjoyed in 42 years since were the North American “Fascination!” EP, “Octopus,” And “Secrets.” Every single other thing I will be happy to cull from the Record Cell. Join us for the culling soon.


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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25 Responses to The Human League’s “Credo:” Still Vexing After All These Years

  1. David Richards says:

    yeah, um, it was, not my cup of tea, as they say. “Never Let Me Go” is flat out unlistenable. Travelouge and Dare are back to back awesome albums- probably a lot of luck involved, but I am guessing also some good management/arty sill from Oakey too.
    So, yes, Credo makes Crash look not “that” bad.


  2. Big Mark says:

    You know, I had not generally thought of your blog as I-listen-to-the-crap-so-that-you-don’t-have-to, but it seems you’ve done a great public service here! The Martyn Ware article in the new issue of Electronic Sound is most illuminating, more than I ever knew about that breakup, making your above comments about Phil being lucky seem quite prescient.


  3. jsd says:

    Credo is a real nadir. Shame, as Secrets was a late period triumph. Of course they couldn’t follow it up in a timely fashion. THL are their own worst enemy sometimes it seems.

    I actually quite like I, Monster. You should do a deep dive on them. It’s not flawless but there are a lot of gems. “Bright Sparks” is a particular treat. Phil wanted them because of the Sheffield connection but they seem do better on their own records.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. secretrivals says:

    Wow! I love how we all have different ears! I just saw The Human League in San Francisco two nights ago and they were simply fantastic. Of course, playing 17 songs from their career is not the same thing as listening to Credo. I saw them for the first in 2018 and they were equally as good. Oddly enough, the first time, Phil sang Sky off stage while the rest of the troops were on stage, or maybe only the musicians were on. I am definitely an album sort of listener, but THL are most certainly at their very best when laying out all the hits. As good as Human is, I don’t own, or even want to own Crash. I think if they hadn’t had the production issues with Hysteria, resulting in Fascination, where they could have combined the two, minus some garbage, their trajectory would have been higher.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave Turner says:

    Must admit that ‘Credo’ is not their best. And the ‘artwork’ is absolutely dire. For such a visual band it’s plain lazy. Any one of us could have done better, even just using text fonts! I bought my signed copy of this album at a League gig in Bristol. Where they were as usual, brilliant. ‘Sky’ is the best track here IMO.
    Of their other (lamentably thin) output, I do enjoy ‘Romantic?’ Just why they take SO long to make albums is beyond me…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Dave Turner – WOW! You enjoy “Romantic?!” True, it did have “Heart Like A Wheel,” their one good single between 1983-1995! But the rest was just ghastly to these ears. I just have a hard time picking their worst effort as there’s strong competition.

      Liked by 1 person

    • To answer your last question first … they make new albums when they run out of money! :)

      As for Romantic? — I remember “Heart Like a Wheel” and enjoyed it a lot. I have no recollection of the rest of the album at all, which is a bad sign, but I’m happy to give it a re-listen and see if it has aged well …


  6. Richard Anvil says:

    I’m so pleased that you’ve stuck your head above the parapet and stated what a dull and uninteresting album this was. At the time of its release I remember hearing and reading how Credo was a return to form and their best album since Dare. I personally found it completely uninspiring. I hardly ever listen to it as its so bland that if you took off the lyrics you wouldn’t be able to work out which track you’re listening to as they all sound the same. Another major problem is pretty much all the tracks are the same tempo, so there are no highs or lows just a monotonous noise.
    I doubt if they’ll ever release another album of new music as all the money is in live gigs anyway and they took forever to write a new album during the years when other bands released an album a year. In todays home made music industry where most famous bands release an album a decade it would make THL’s next album due in 2050.
    What is a shame is Martyn Ware has repeatedly offered to write and record with Oakey but, according to Ware, ‘the girls won’t let him’.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Richard Anvil – And it’s not as though Heaven 17 haven’t been teasing us with those two, great, 12” singles either! I can fully understand Joanne and Suzanne being territorial. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be 200% behind a one-off original Human League project. But Marsh is entirely off the game board. It’ll never happen to that extent.


      • Richard Anvil says:

        I’ve always wondered out of Ware and Marsh as to who did what. I know Ware programmed the Linn Drums so I didn’t know which was the actual creative force. When Marsh left and the remains of H17 just kept doing reworkings of their original tracks I thought I’d found the answer, but when Pray and the following 12″ singles came out I had to think again as IMHO they are the best songs H17 have recorded since The Luxury Gap. So I think a Ware/Oakey collaboration would be absolutely amazing. But we can only dream.

        Liked by 1 person

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Richard Anvil – It seemed fluid. Marsh was the guy who bought a Fairlight! Not that I thought that helped the band too much. Paving stone scrapes in “Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry” were inspired. Much of “How Men Are” … not so much. So you also loved those 12” singles? I’m so glad I acted decisively on them. But it’s sad that the merch table quickie “Naked As Advertised” stands as their possible final album.


  7. Gavin says:

    I was utterly crushed with disppointment the day I bought Credo.
    I have only played it once more since the day it came out,such is the horror.
    Sky is the only track I remember liking and I saw them perform it live around that time.
    They are still a superb live act,but I cannot imagine any more studio work coming out alas.
    Romantic? has some great tracks,Rebound and a Doorway being my faves,but the 12″ of Heart Like a Wheel is still one of my favourite records ever made.

    Liked by 2 people

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