Over 30 years on, Dare’s music still sounds fresh enough to mark it a pop classic.
Ian Wade 2012
The Human League were deemed all but dead when the ‘musicians’ left to form Heaven 17. But Phil Oakey’s trip to his local Sheffield nightclub proved to be a very good idea, as he recruited a couple of schoolgirls who’d propel the band to new heights. Within a year Phil, Adrian, Joanne and Susanne (and later Ian Burden and Jo Callis) were to become the biggest band in the country and number one come Christmas 1981 with one of the top-selling singles of the decade.
Dare, released in October '81, showcased the band’s growth from sinister-sounding electronics to a triumph of the new pop aesthetic arising from New Wave. With a high-gloss cover (which cost 50p more to keep it perfectly white) stolen from a Vogue fashion piece, Dare was heralded by a trio of successful singles – the clanking boom-crash of The Sound of the Crowd, the utterly wondrous Love Action (I Believe in Love) and the intense Open Your Heart.
Older fans who might have been put off by this new ‘selling records’ approach were still catered for. Darkness practically invents electro goth, and I Am the Law is a perfectly ominous piece full of dystopian themes, with Phil giving it his best Judge Dredd. The album also touches on wish fulfilment with The Things That Dreams are Made of, explores JFK’s assassination on Seconds, and presents the Get Carter theme via a Casio VL-Tone – essentially a calculator with a samba preset.
Martin Rushent’s enthusiasm for buying fancy new equipment, now at affordable prices, benefited Oakey’s quest for a fresh sound. But for all of Dare’s highs, its closer has proved to be The Human League’s deathless contribution to the eternal pop canon. Don’t You Want Me is a song that has taken a battering from keen karaoke amateurs since its release, but it remains one of the greatest chart-toppers ever.
This reissue collects extended versions along with Hard Times, and includes Fascination, which was an import-only compilation of the next two singles – Mirror Man and the title-track – and respective B sides. Everything’s representative of the imperial phase of a band that genuinely had the world at its feet. Dare is a pop album so perfect that its makers could’ve easily left it there and their legacy would’ve been complete. That this music still sounds so incredible after 30-odd years is what makes it a classic.