These are the remasters that include singles and EPs like BEING BOILED and THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR. Can you tell I finally watched BBC’s Synth Britannia? -Ian!
Pop fans a bit put off by the Human League’s dispassionate vocals on their breakout hit “Don’t You Want Me” would have been shocked by the degree of emotionlessness heard two years earlier on the band’s 1979 debut. The trio of Ian Craig Marsh, Martyn Ware, and Philip Oakey all handled vocals and synthesizers to create a set of grim, rigid tracks that revealed a greater lack of humanity than even Kraftwerk. It’s a surprise that the Human League hit the British charts at all (with the single “Empire State Human”), since this could well be the most detached synth pop record ever released.
The Human League’s second album, Travelogue, was their first to be released in the U.S. (Not that you would have noticed at the time, given the limited distribution; the album subsequently was picked up for reissue by Virgin/Atlantic in 1988.) It was also the last to feature the nearly original lineup of Martyn Ware, Ian Marsh, Philip Oakey, and Adrian Wright. Already, the band’s synthesizer textures and Oakey’s mannered voice were starting to lean in a pop direction, but much of this album retained the austere tone of earlier synthesizer groups such as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. The conflicting musical directions led to a split in the band after this album, with Ware and Marsh forming Heaven 17 and Oakey and Wright reorganizing a new version of the Human League. Ironically, both ventures were more pop-oriented than before.
-John Bush, William Ruhlmann, allmusic.com