CD Review of The Human Value by The Human Value

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The Human Value
starhalf starno starno starno star Label: Big Deal Records
Released: 2005
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Okay, it’s 2007 now – the ‘90s have been over for a while, can we please move on? If their debut record is any indication, the Human Value obviously doesn’t think so.

This is a band intent on grabbing the best parts from all their favorite bands and hoping that no one will notice. They snagged the slight electronic influences from Garbage’s first album, PJ Harvey’s dark and disturbing vocals from her debut record, and just about every vaguely catchy hook and melody from damn near every band that had a hit single from 1992 to now.

In theory there’s nothing wrong with that, great artists do steal – but they also contribute something new to the process. The Human Value are seemingly content to crib from various other bands in a Frankenstein-type way hoping to create the ultimate alternative-rock song, and they might have succeeded if it was 1996. Everything on this album has been done before and done better, from the fast-paced Blondie-wannabe “Give Me” to bland and forgettable ballads like “You Want Him” and “Parts Per Million” which dominate the album.

The Human Value are really just two people, the improbably named Turu and Hiram. Turu tries throughout the album to sound like PJ Harvey or Karen O and just doesn’t have what it takes. Her voice on songs like “Won’t Be Long” and “She” is painfully flat and without emotion; she can handle a ballad a little better, but her inability to hold a note remains painfully obvious.

While Turu isn’t the world’s greatest singer, her vocal range is operatic when compared to her cohort Hiram. This boy cannot sing – at all. Not only can’t he sing, he probably can’t even talk. On songs like “Kill Pangs” he just contributes subtle back-up vocals, but his voice is so overpoweringly bad that it becomes immensely distracting and overpowers everything else around it. What’s worse are songs like “Somebody” and “Complications” where Hiram makes an ill-advised attempt to sing lead. This point cannot be stressed enough, he can not sing. He’s bad, really bad, first round of “American Idol” bad, Einar from Sugarcubes bad, he’s the vocal equivalent of a kick in the balls, not only is it painful and completely unnecessary, but it hurts just as bad the first time around as it does the 10th and 20th. His voice sounds like it was run through about 20 vocoder effects, spun up repeatedly and slowed back down again while he was getting something pointy shoved up his rectum – and that’s being kind. Kill it with fire.

The real sad thing about all of this is that there might be a halfway decent band behind all this blatant unoriginality. “Nashville #5” is easily the album’s highlight, a song so good that it doesn’t even belong on the same record with the trash around it. Turu belts out a hell of a chorus over a pounding beat that sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs if they were given some high-tech keyboards. Even Hiram’s backing vocals somehow work in the context of this pained ballad. Download that one if you must, but no matter how much you like it avoid the rest – Hiram’s voice is something you cannot unhear.

~James B. Eldred