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Album Review

A slightly retitled 1991 CD reissue of Human Sexual Response's 1980 debut, with one previously unreleased track appended ("Buttfuck" was a staple of the Boston group's live act, but it was deemed too plainspoken for the original vinyl release), Figure 15 is a classic album of American new wave. The group's odd structure (guitar, bass, drums, plus four singers) gives the album a unique, theatrical sound, like a low-budget community theatre production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown hijacked by graduates of the Kinsey Institute. Not all of lead singer Larry Bangor's lyrics are as obsessed with sex as the band's name and reputation suggested, and songs like "What Does Sex Mean to Me?" and "Jackie Onassis" gave the group a novelty tag that was tough to shake. This is a particular shame, because the best songs on Figure 15 are dark, serious works, like the hypnotic, pulsing "Marone Moan" and the epic closer "Anne Frank Story." Far from being a dirtier version of the B-52's, Human Sexual Response were a unique group with an unsettling thematic vision. That vision was perhaps better explored on their second and final album, In a Roman Mood, but Figure 15 is one of the most potent debuts of its era.


Formed: 1978 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Although they were pegged to be the post-punk era's next big thing, Boston's Human Sexual Response did the opposite, and crashed and burned after four years and two albums. But during their short existence, they created a substantial buzz in their hometown and on the East Coast for their arty and energetic live shows and their sophisticated postmodern pop. Fronted by four singers and backed by a power trio that featured the excellent guitar work of Rich Gilbert, HSR combined a punk rock ethos with...
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Fig. 15, Human Sexual Response
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