Picks and Pans Review: Waking Up with the House on Fire

updated 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Culture Club

He may look like a B-movie femme fatale, but Boy George's beauty—or whatever you call it—is more than skin deep. He is an insinuating, seductive singer, clearly under the spell of Smokey Robinson. George and the rest of the Club also have an ear for infectious melody. In this, the group's third album, it makes a concerted attempt to inject some novelty into its formula with the fuzz guitar rock of Hello Goodbye and the honking boogie-woogie of Crime Time. The War Song, the first single release off the LP, is a simple, bouncy number whose jangly, carnival mood seems deliberately set against the lyrics, which proclaim (none too articulately, but perhaps it's the thought that counts): "War is stupid/And people are stupid/And love means nothing/In some strange quarters." Like most of Culture Club's tunes, this one worms its way into your brain with repeated listenings and stays there. But there are better songs on the album. One is the slinky, sexy Unfortunate Thing, with a melody (in the verse, not the chorus) that Stevie Wonder would have been proud to pen. Another is Mistake No. 3, a tender ballad that the great song-smiths of Motown's heyday could scarcely have improved upon. If you get the idea that Culture Club works within established genres, you're right, but it mixes them up and executes them unusually well. And if the group has been guilty of numbingly repeating the key hooks and phrases in its songs, this album demonstrates the Club is capable of more. (Epic)

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