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. Rated:
by Reviewer: The Doctor