Before their absurdly huge pop success, Human League had two albums of just being a cool outfit mucking around with synthesizers, drum machines, other weird gear, exploring all the mysterious regions that the new technology was opening up. Dreams of Leaving, found on their second album Travelogue, gets downright epic before it’s done, something to do with closed borders, grudges, maybe just paranoia. It was 1980. There was a lot to worry about.
Are the Rolling Stones the greatest rock and roll band ever? Maybe. But for a solid ten or twelve years, no matter how messed up things got in their camp, no matter who was dying, getting arrested, nodding off, almost choking on their own puke, there was always a new album, every year, and they were always at least good. But it probably should have all ended in 1974 with It’s Only Rock And Roll. Not that they didn’t still have a few choice moments left in them, but in terms of proper swan songs, nothing was going to say it as succinctly – we’ve done our time, we’ve played our various hands, it’s all just rock and roll anyway. Though Fingerprint File is hinting at something more — funky, groovy, tense, whispering of surveillance and paranoia, all secrecy, no privacy. Like a long tense night, no sleep, no end in sight.
It’s 1966 and it seems only Frank Zappa and his Mothers realize just how freaky and weird things are about to get, and Frank never even did drugs (beyond cigarettes and coffee). Nevertheless he could see them — the Brain Police. Or more to the point, he felt them, because you can’t see the brain police, can you? They’re within you, hiding behind your devices of oracular perception. Recording things. Seriously, they are there, implanted at birth.
“Listening to Abba is like having a bath, then going to bed with freshly cleaned sheets. Or so I heard it put way back when, the 1970s. But by the time the 1980s hit, the culture no longer required such luxuriant cleanliness. So Abba effected a change, got darker, deeper, paranoid even. Which worked for me, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard The Visitors popping up at a wedding.” (Philip Random)