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Human League, The

Entry updated 20 December 2011. Tagged: Music.

UK pop band, formed in 1977 by Martyn Ware (1946-    ) and Philip Oakley (1955-    ). They took their name from one of the alliances listed in the sf boardgame Starforce: Alpha Centauri, and the early releases featured occasional genre realizations. Their second album Travelogue (1980) included, for instance, "The Black Hit of Space" and a song in praise of the then Doctor Who actor "Tom Baker"; both possess a certain attractive austerity. The group's breakthrough album, Dare (1981) was poppier, though still robotic and self-consciously arty. A series of non-sf but enormously successful albums followed that moved away from the modish science-fictional alienation of their early work, although songs on their sixth album Romantic (1990) used tropes of time travel and apocalypse ("Kiss the Future", "The Stars Are Going Out") in a deliberately throwaway manner as a way of talking about relationships. The band's pared-down electronic keyboard and drum-machine music, and Oakley's low and rather plangent voice, gave Human League a distinctive sound that could be described as "very 1980s"; they struggled, accordingly, when musical tastes moved on in the 1990s. [AR]

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