Picks and Pans Review: From Luxury to Heartache

updated 05/19/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/19/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Culture Club

In the Warholian world of fame, the Boy George boomlet seems to have occurred eons ago, before Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Prince and Madonna went speeding by in a fast-forward jabber. Now the Boy is coming 'round the bend again. No longer the plump tart, the fey Clark Kent or the tuft-topped Bert (of Sesame Street) look-alike, he sports the physiognomy of a svelte and winsome lass. His group has hired Aretha Franklin's former hit maker, Arif Mardin, to help twiddle the dials in the studio. There are enough synthesized drum tracks and overlaid jots and tittles to emboss the words "Top 40 hit" on the jaded eardrums of most any radio program director. Move Away is a conservative choice for the first singleā€”it has the pleasantly insinuating swish and lilt of the Club's early hits. Work on Me Baby and God Thank You Woman are typically Clubby up-datings of '60s-vintage Smokey Robinson soul. A little more interesting, if only for the variety, are the funk-filled Gusto Blusto and a tantalizing reggae derivation, Reasons. Too Bad and/Pray borrow some of Thomas Dolby's brash ideas on how to make synths go pop. All in all, the LP has no stirring peaks, no abysmal valleys, just a lot of well-crafted surface. None of it feels as compelling and personal as the way Boy sang those memorable words way back when: "Do you really want to hurt me?" He's fallen into the hit machine. (Virgin/Epic)

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