At first, it was awfully hard to take this cartoonish punk quartet from Tunbridge Wells seriously. The songwriting team of Animal (Nick Karmer) and Magoo penned irate diatribes aimed at what they called the “nowheres” of the world: straights, nine-to-fives, etc. Although one can’t doubt them when they spit “I Hate…People,” they do manage to inject a sense of humor on the first album, which can soften even the most potentially offensive song, such as the ragingly misogynist “Woman.” And anyone who doubts their ingenuity should listen to the blazing (but surprisingly appropriate) treatment of Ralph McTell’s folkie chestnut, “Streets of London.” (That number also appears on the prior American EP, joined by two other tunes from the album and a bonus cut.)
The live album was indeed recorded in Tito-land (April 1983) and features a full airing of the band’s repertoire, including “I Hate People,” “Woman,” “We Are the League,” “Streets of London” and “Let’s Break the Law.” The Zagreb audience is surprisingly enthusiastic as the quartet puts on a no-holds-barred rock show, captured in trebly but adequately clear sound. Long Live the League is a compilation, containing outtakes and remixes.
Four years on, the League evidently decided to try a new approach — or ten. Like an ’80s rock jukebox gone out of control, tracks on The Perfect Crime imitate Big Country, the Stranglers, Alarm, Buzzcocks and others, with surprisingly good results. “(I Don’t Believe) This Is My England,” which actually doesn’t sound like anybody, is a touchingly anthemic folk ballad that couldn’t be further from dumb punk. Overall, the album boasts reasonably sturdy melodies plus intelligent and positive-minded political lyrics — a likable new chapter in this unlikely saga.
The public, used to a far less respectable League, didn’t take to the LP, and the group split up in 1988. The following year, however, a one-off reunion gig in the band’s hometown was recorded and released as Live &Loud!!. The three Perfect Crime songs get first-album treatment (no synthesizers), and the album rocks in the band’s old style from start to finish. Kicking off with the classic “For You,” the League’s characteristic humor, insouciance and gusto are in full effect, particularly on a version of Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else” copied from the Sex Pistols’ version, “We Are the League” and “Streets of London.” A worthy finale, bidding adieu with a loud belch rather than a whimper.