Penthouse And Pavement 7½
( 1981 )
(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang / Penthouse and Pavement / Play to Win / Soul Warfare / Geisha Boys and Temple Girls / Let's All Make a Bomb / The Height of the Fighting / Song with No Name / We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time
Who knew when the guys from Human League left to form Heaven 17 that Human League would go massive and Heaven 17 absolutely wouldn't? It's weird, the guys that did ALL of the music for Human League left. Human League were left with a singer and some other guy that probably previously made the tea whilst watching everything that was going on. So, here we are with the debut 'Heaven 17' album by the guys that made the music and wrote the music and produced the music. By the way, none of the singles released from the LP charted, although the album did - it may have only peaked at number 14, but it went gold and sold over 100,000 copies within a couple of years of release.
Female backing singers enrich the title track, which has funk fake bass and lots of twiddly electronic bits, as Heaven 17 tried to get the most of the ready-made synthesizers that were around at the time. A note about the singer - although superficially similar to Phil Oakey of Human League, he's often back in the mix. Was this a decision made because they settled for him as a singer, or because quite frankly they needed vocals for commercial reasons, but really wanted the music to shine? Speaking of music, after the trying to hard title track 'Play To Win' sounds warmer and although still full of faintly silly noises here and there, and despite sporting absolutely terrible vocals - is a good track. It's funky, in a white man Sheffield 1981 way. Still, let's talk about the only track anybody under the age of 40 might know about - 'Fascist Groove Thing'. Politics was rife within certain sections of the UK music industry, that just writing vaguely about something, or having sound bites, was often enough. That's besides the point however - this is by far the best produced track on the album, has an actual chorus and the electronic twiddly bits enhance the track and yes, also are there to show off. It's a track that works on every level as far as whatever mission statement Heaven 17 had, not wanting to do pop, but still wanting to sell records. Some confused times, ying and yang and... well. you get the idea.
'Song With No Name' is hardly 'Don't You Want Me' by Human League, and there lies the problem really. Whilst even Human League themselves thought it terrible, it went to number one. The former Human League music-men meanwhile went for acclaim, worthiness - and ended up an acclaimed afterthought. Have you ever had an acclaimed afterthought? Can be painful, so Iím told. What else? Well, that's it really. Oxtail soup - warming, and nutritious.