Penthouse and Pavement by Heaven 17

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Penthouse and Pavement by Heaven 17
Penthouse and Pavement by Heaven 17

Album Released: 1981

Penthouse and Pavement ::: Artwork

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1.(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang4:15
2.Penthouse And Pavement6:20
3.Play To Win3:33
4.Soul Warfare5:00
5.Geisha Boys And Temple Girls4:32
6.Let's All Make A Bomb4:06
7.The Height Of The Fighting2:58
8.Song With No Name3:34
9.We're Going To Live For A Very Long Time2:41


Heaven 17 were fronted by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, co-founders of the experimental synth-pop outfit Human League, but they left that group due to creative differences with lead singer Philip Oakey. The split was not terribly amicable, which resulted in serious competition between the two parties.

Thus it might come as no surprise that both groups' maiden post-split activities would produce two of the finest synth-pop albums. The Human League's contribution from 1981 was Dare, an elegantly minimal album that contained some of the finest pop hooks around. Heaven 17's melodies on Penthouse and Pavement were also strong (if a mite weaker), however their instrumentation was startlingly different.

Heaven 17 were interested in developing exotic textures and infusing their songs with provocative lyrics. The album's opening “(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" was so controversial that some conservative radio stations flatly refused to play it (Democrats are out of power across that great wide ocean. Reagan's president elect, Fascist god in motion, generals tell him what to do. Stop your good time dancing, train their guns on me and you - Fascist thang advancing). Those lyrics not only amuse me, it happens to be a great tune too - punchy, texturally rich - and I've not been able to get it out of my head.

The same goes for the rest of these songs. More great moments include the engagingly cheeky “Play to Win”, the slick piano-studded “Soul Warfare”, and the darkly humorous anti-Cold War statement “Let's All Make a Bomb” (the main reason I like the latter song is the referee-whistle battle in the middle).

All in all, I consider this one of the quintessential releases of the 1980's. Not only is it unique, but it's also wildly entertaining.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

After Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware quit synth/pop band The Human League, they formed the British Electronic Foundation (B.E.F.) as a plan for several projects, and out of that came the hit trio Heaven 17, with vocalist Glenn Gregory joining them, someone who had an outstanding baritone, different from the norm for this kind of electronic pop.

Heaven 17's debut is broken up into two sides on the original vinyl release, the 'Pavement' side and the 'Penthouse' side. Pavement, which comes first, despite being named second in the album title, has guitar touches (and a bit of saxophone from Marsh), while Penthouse is totally electronic.

The result is a winning and irresistibly catchy debut. The opening "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" sets the album's cards on the table straight away, with its political references (enough to have it banned by the BBC when released as a single), minimal and sparse accompaniment, and catchy melody. The next three songs are good enough, without quite maintaining the same pace.

On the second side are three of the best songs on the disc - "Let's All Make a Bomb", "The Height of the Fighting", and "We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time". The latter is a clear attack on religious fanaticism, and as a Christian myself (although hardly a mad fanatic who fits with some of the lyrics), I could take offence at this, but there's a tongue-in-cheek flavour to it all (as there is on the whole record, really), and the song is just a straight forward and incredibly catchy way to finish off. Its oft-repeated last few words, before the sudden cut off, wins me over every time.

In a way, Penthouse and Pavement straddles the line between what The Human League were like on their first couple of albums, and the commercially successful band they were becoming by 1981. The record's electronics are harsh yet grabbing, and it's so full of hooks it can only be regarded as a winner, and remains the band's best release.

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by Reviewer: The Doctor