Human Heads - New York Ice Cream TV Travel Good Times
Label: Profound Mystery Format: Cassette, Album, Limited Edition Country: UK Released: 2023 Genre: Electronic Style: Pop
“In another possible Doncaster, ‘The Amateur Hour’ is a guiding principle of a society where people make the right music with the wrong things.”
About seven or eight years ago Human Heads played a gig above a vegan pub in Withington, where they performed a Human League cover as part of their set. I don’t remember which Human League song it was, I just remember finding it thrilling to encounter something my mum might have been able to sing along to as part of an experimental improv night which began with a duo sat cross-legged on the floor rubbing rocks against a contact mic, or something of that nature.
During the COVID lockdowns, when the idea behind Profound Mystery first started taking shape, one mission sprang very quickly to mind - coax a full album of Human League covers out of Human Heads. It’s all too perfect - the names, the memory of that gig, the fact that half of their regular line-up is from Sheffield. The mission was dutifully accepted, with the caveat that it wouldn’t resemble a conventional covers album. The resulting release is pitched somewhere between Momus’ David Bowie-themed cabaret show Dybbuk Momie and an “audio fanzine”, complete with MIDI karaoke and Phil Oakey fan fiction.
It turns out that there’s a lot to say about the Human League as it pertains to pop music’s relationship with the fringe, the underground, the noisy and the weird. The band belonged to a cultural moment in which untrained amateurs, members of the provincial avant-gardes, could still gain access to pop’s inner sanctum. If the Human League’s story is one of successful acclimitisation to the profession of pop stardom, then Human Heads are most interested in what the trio took along with them on that journey, the ways in which a group that outlandishly claimed to have done "a soul album before Janet Jackson” also retained a connection to “the amateur brown root of music, a commonplace stubborn as the smell of boiling vegetables”.
In the real world here-and-now, amateur musicality is locked in the shadow of the pop industry. With New York Ice Cream TV Travel Good Times, Human Heads zoom in on a speculative dimension carved out in the 1980s, where a drive towards glamour coexists perfectly well with a fondness for “listening to people hit bum notes with the windows open”. Seven or eight years ago from that Withington show, Human Heads present an LP-length tribute to this transgressive moment for pop music in the UK - the right covers, made the wrong way.
1. A Crow and a Baby 04:40 2. Fan Fiction part 1 05:02 3. Louise 04:09 4. Fan Fiction part 2 04:45 5. The Things That Dreams Are Made Of 07:50 6. Stars 07:22