[9] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’

Alphabeat

When The Human League sang ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ they weren’t just introducing us to a whole new blaring synth noise or releasing their final true electro-pop single (ok, there was ‘Louise’ a couple of years later, but that was the red herring of the macho Hysteria) – no, they were telling us to stay wide-eyed, drop that cynicism, remember your youth, feel wonder, carry on loving fiercely catchy and shrill Scandinavian pop records…

And whaddya know? Here’s one of them now, with nearly the same name. The story’s the same too. You won’t like this if girl-boy vocal-exchange giddiness and relentlessly upbeat powerpop makes you come out in hives, but if you’re prepared to let a little melodic light into your blackened soul, you might just be able to stave off the nausea for a few minutes. Junior and I love this because a) we’re essentially the same musical mental age and b) we’re both brilliant at singing the “woah-oh woah-oh-oh”s. Here’s your guilty pleasure for 2008.

[18] The Human League, ‘Mirror Man’

Kicking off with the please-God-make-them-STOP ooo-ooo-ooo-OOO harmonies from The Girls, this is a Sheffield-hued Motownesque synth pop bounder, blessed with one of Phil Oakey’s more soulful vocals. Well, he lets his flat robotone crack in one place. That’s as close as the West Yorks Veronica Lake will ever get to letting rip and breaking down.

And it’s one of those singles that doesn’t appear on an album, so extra points there. The Human League weren’t strangers to that – the next single, ‘Fascination’ was the same. Rather than a sop to the fans, I think they were struggling to follow up the peerless Dare, so would bung out a single whenever a song passed muster. The patchy in the extreme Hysteria was the album that finally rolled up, heralded by the bewildering ‘The Lebanon’. The goose was cooked.

So, is it better than ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’? Junior looked puzzled at first; soon she was clapping along. “A bit derivative,” she said, “but it has a certain Steeltown infectiousness that transcends its reference points.”