Momentarily, Heaven 17 were the coolest band on the planet...
Daryl Easlea 2006-08-10
Momentarily, Heaven 17 were the coolest band on the planet; and this timely reissue series celebrates their two greatest albums, and the third one, which wasn't too bad either.
When the Human League fractured in 1980, Phil Oakey and his new troubadours went off to make songs to sing and learn for children, while Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh (the British Electric Foundation, lest we forget) added the northern soul of Glenn Gregory and made grown-up irony-laden techno-funk.
The first fruit of the pop wing of the B.E.F, "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang", is still as hilarious as it is funky, and reminds you that for one clear month in spring 1981, it was the very teeth of the cutting edge. It effortlessly introduces the 'Pavement' side of their debut album, which doled out the groove, while the following 'Penthouse' put us back in their very discrete synth world.
The Luxury Gap from 1983 was their biggest commercial success, full of hooks and nuances, fluid funk and sultry soul as typified by their only genuine chart smash, the Carol Kenyon showcase "Temptation". "Who'll Stop The Rain" and "Crushed By The Wheels of Industry" further marked out this superiority.
Although something of a malaise had set in by the time of 1984's How Men Are (the Earth Wind and Fire horn section was brought in - enough said), it contains "The Skin I'm In" and, arguably their most ambitious tune, the ten-minute opus "And That's No Lie".
Great to hear, well-packaged and annotated; a smattering of remixes and b-sides make these releases very welcome indeed.