Boston’s promising (but ultimately unsuccessful) seven-person Human Sexual Response (including four vocalists!) explored sexual identities, both physical and mental, on Figure 14, as on the wonderful “What Does Sex Mean to Me?” Elsewhere, there’s a healthy irreverence towards the famous and the neurotic, with sex never quite out of the picture. Leanings in the direction of art rock, led by singer Larry Bangor’s Tom Verlaine-style vocals, occasionally get HSR in trouble, coming off too cute.
In a Roman Mood is darker and more oblique than Figure 14, showcasing the band’s growing lyrical complexity regarding human beings and what they expect from each other. Again their nervous rhythms — over an entire LP — don’t produce anything outstanding. Human Sexual Response makes background music for difficult relationships.
The band broke up in 1982 and spawned several offshoots; a reunion show took place on Halloween 1984. Although the Zulus contains three HSR alumni, the quartet dispenses with the jokes on its long-playing Bob Mould-produced debut. Unfortunately, it didn’t also dispense with Larry Bangor, an insufferable singer with an unpleasant voice and a predilection for theatrical posturing. Rich Gilbert’s clever guitar moves range from loudly melodic rock to disjointed intricacy, but he only contributes to the album’s pointless profusion of personalities. Drummer Malcolm Travis later joined Mould in forming Sugar.