Home Site

Culture Club

  • Kissing To Be Clever
  • Colour By Numbers
  • Waking Up With The House On Fire
  • From Luxury To Heartache

  • Album Reviews |

    Culture Club

    Kissing To Be Clever 4 ( 1982 )
    White Boy (Dance Mix) / You Know I'm Not Crazy / I'll Tumble 4 Ya / Take Control / Love Twist (feat. Captain Crucial) / Boy, Boy (I'm the Boy) / I'm Afraid of Me (Remix) / White Boys Can't Control It / Do You Really Want to Hurt Me

    Boy George - vocals, Jon Moss - drums, Roy Hay - guitar, keyboards and Michael Craig - bass. If only one of those names, the vocalist, seems to have passed into legend, perhaps there is a reason for that. Culture Club were typical of many eighties acts in a way and also many of the sixties pop acts. The singles would often be wonderfully good but then the albums would be jam packed full of filler. I'm old enough by the way to remember the genuine shock people felt when they discovered Boy George wasn't in fact a woman. Seems hard to credit in these less innocent times but there were stories of people liking the music and the act until they found out, 'actually that's a man dressed as a woman'. Well, I grew up in fairly reserved parts of the countryside. We were shocked down in Devon, I can tell you! Still, once you knew what his story was, the quality of the pop singles charmed us all too much to hold any grudges. 'Kissing To Be Clever' contains a couple or three singles but only one actual hit though and we all know what that is, the final track. 'I'll Tumble 4 Ya' was nice calypso beats with good melody but never strong enough to chart and 'Time (Clock Of The Heart)' is only a bonus track and we don't count bonus tracks over here at 'adriandenning.co.uk' otherwise all box-sets would automatically get 10/10 for containing so much material. Well, something like that. Wait, wait, wait. Only a bonus track I hear three Culture Club fans cry? Well, on some CD editions it's not present at all, it was on the original vinyl issue and to be frank, needs to be on this LP because it's quite weak otherwise. The original cassette version of the album contained even more songs i'm told. Why the record label have treated one of the defining acts of the 80s with such disregard is peculiar, because whatever you think of the bands music or image, they did define part of the 80s and certain people will have fond memories of this LP. Why, I really couldn't say myself because I never owned it at the time. Well, I was only eight years old.

    Anyway, onto the music but that's what we're supposed to be here for. One side of this album presents us with happy, sunshine calypso pop. The other side presents us with white-boy soul. Boy George certainly had a good soul voice but the production on this LP, the hit single aside, doesn't really highlight it. It's a fairly bare sound the group have compared to groups these days. Synth bass sounds, plastic drum sounds, calpsyo beats. Little funk guitar parts and so on. 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' you've heard but have you ever really paid attention to the construction of the song? It's got a decent dub vibe and lots of spaces. There was a dub remix which i've never heard, but someone clever could do wonders with this song. As for the original, it's a classy piece of 80s pop, although not one of my favourite 80s pop songs. Ever noticed when people discuss this album they mention differing versions of the album and the singles? There's a reason for that, the other songs are nearly all uniformly terrible. Steve Levein the producer should shoulder a lot of the blame for the album coming out the way it has. I don't like the hit at the end idea ( Human League's 'Dare' does the same ) and I don't like the fake funk guitar lines. I don't like either of the 'White Boy' songs, surely overplaying the point? 'I'm Afraid Of Me' joins 'I'll Tumble 4 Ya' and 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' as a decent tune. Add 'Time' if you want, but that still only makes three listenable songs and half a dozen terrible ones. Their albums hopefully get better after this but that's another story and shall be told another time.

    Add A Comment?

    top of page
    Colour By Numbers 7 ( 1983 )
    Karma Chameleon / It's A Miracle / Black Money / Changing Every Day / That's The Way / Church Of The Poison Mind / Miss Me Blind / Mister Man / Stormkeeper / Victims

    This was a number one album in October, 1983. It's a good example of the kind of 80s pop that twenty-somethings too young to remember the eighites play at their weddings, these days. Went to a friends wedding, all the hideous music from the eighties came out. It was like listening to Gary Davies and his 'bit in the middle' all over again. Absolutely hideous stuff. Sure, the Eighties produced great music but I didn't want to be reminded of all the bland crap that came out as well. They had this big white-soul thing going on, so everybody had to go soul. You remember how The Jam became The Style Council? Enough said. Anyway, this album was indeed a massive success and contains four UK top five singles. This was indeed Culture Club's commercial peak. In April 1983 we had 'Church Of The Poison Mind' hitting number two, in September we had 'Karma Chameleon' reaching number 1. 'Victims' hit number three in December and rolling into March of 1984 'It's A Miracle' hit number four. The sound of the music is of course very 80s, complete with Sax and Trumpet for those fake-soul moments. Boy George sings using exactly the same smooth tone of voice throughout and it soon becomes annoying. That's not to say the album isn't without merit, however. It's a huge improvement over their debut and almost every cut could have been a hit in 1983 or 1984.

    'It's A Miracle' fares better these days than 'Karma Chameleon', because the latter is now a song so overplayed you can surely only enjoy it when you're steaming drunk. 'It's A Miracle' meanwhile is smart eighties pop music with a very good chorus. 'Black Money' is soulful, i'll give it that, and the brass instruments even work. It's overly long mind you. 'That's The Way' is a pleasing piano ballad that's better than it has any right to be, given the company its keeping. Sadly, after 'Church of The Poison Mind' has blasted off 'side two' in old vinyl money, 'Colour By Numbers' struggles to keep up a decent strike rate, moving into bland, soul-pop waters and forgetting to pack the hooks in the suitcase. Still, 'Church Of A Poison Mind' features great harmonica and even a vocal harmony section, to boot. Ten songs then, thirty eight minutes and half of them are good. By eighties pop standards, that's a good track record for an album to have, so I cautiously give this a '7'.

    Add A Comment?

    top of page
    Waking Up With The House On Fire 6 ( 1984 )
    Dangerous Man / The War Song / Unfortunate Thing / Crime Time / Mistake No. 3 / The Dive / The Medal Song / Don't Talk About It / Mannequin / Hello Goodbye

    Considered a rushed, sup-par letdown at the time, it's still worth noting that 'Waking Up With The House On Fire' sold more than 4 million copies worldwide. Sure, 'Colour By Numbers' had gone 4x platinum, but 'Waking Up' lacked any real classic singles in an age where a hit single or three was key to ensuring an albums success. There's precious little information on the internet about how the album was perceived back in the day, apart from unease at 'War Song' and the general feeling that the album was somewhat rushed. Having said that, listened to some twenty-six years later (to make you feel old) this set stands up pretty well. The musicianship is arguably the strongest of any Culture Club LP thus far, the benefit of them becomming a very professional, well-honed outfit. The songs, as I said, generally lack the sprinkling of massive worldwide hits but that actually results in the album flowing together more smoothly, in my opinion, that than previous LPs. The band were in the throes of Boy George and Jon Moss breaking up and over-saturated on the airwaves and fat with the excesses millions of pounds and massive fame brings. They'd lost their freshness, their 'wow' factor. Yes, maybe they did release this album too soon, but the fall was inevitable I suspect in any case, due to changing musical fashions.

    One problem I cannot let pass is the quality of both Boy George's vocals and lyrics. Drugs and excess perhaps paid their toll, but his vocals and noticeably less rich than before. Lyrically, the album is largely self-indulgent and more serious than before, no doubt contributing to the sales decline when compared to 'Colour By Numbers'. Sure, some of the melodies across the albums ten tracks are somewhat generic, yet let's take 'Mistake No 3'. A beautiful soul tune is hidden in there somewhere, let down by uninteresting lyrics and a vocal struggingly to attain clarity. 'War Song' by the way doesn't really have typical Culture Club style lyrics, Boy George singing about war, any kind of emotional war, is absolutely fine but it jusn't perhaps as subtly done as people had hoped for. Nice tune, though, very catchy indeed. Indeed, the only really obvious single-type tune on the entire LP. 'Unfortunate Thing' though would have made a better single for my money than the lacklustre 'Medal Song' but there you are. An ok Culture Club album but yes, I do miss the hit songs. I even miss the typically overloaded uneven 80s album style that permeated their last LP. For fans though, this is very worthwhile to pick up, it completes their 80s era very well. Their next LP you see would see an attempted change of sound.

    Add A Comment?

    top of page
    From Luxury To Heartache ( 1984 )
    Move Away / Work On Me Baby / Gusto Blusto / Heaven's Children / God Thank You Woman / Reasons / Too Bad / Come Clean / Sexuality

    Coming Soon

    Add A Comment?

    top of page
    this page last updated 20/02/16

    Full Archive - Sort by Decade - Sort by Genre

    Album Reviews | A-Z Artists | Beginners Guides | Twitter | Blogs We Like |
    Channel Youtube | Contact Us | Find New Music | Features | Music & Web Apps | Ratings At A Glance
    Singles Bar | Top 100 Albums | Top 100 Songs |

    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

    Made In Devon.