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RECORD RACK

Boy George--the Novelty Sounds Thin

April 20, 1986|CONNIE JOHNSON

"FROM LUXURY TO HEARTACHE." Culture Club. Virgin/Epic.

Boy George isn't the eye-popping curiousity that he used to be. In 1982 the singer-composer's cornrow braids and R&B-flavored intro to "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" marked him as one of the most provocative British invaders since the Beatles. But now Boy George (O'Dowd) is apparently more fascinated by cosmetics and updated hairdos than in making sure that Culture Club's sound is equally up-to-the-minute and riveting.

There's an exception: The opener, "Move Away," has more chart-conscious commerciality than anything on Culture Club's last album. Built on a rugged Motown-ish melody, it's hotly dance-oriented, and Helen Terry's hardy backing vocals lend it real strength. On that cut--and elsewhere--George's lyrics are still too convoluted, particularly when he makes one of his highfalutin' pronouncements on the human condition.

Clever wordplay, rather than communication, remain his top priority on "Too Bad." It rocks mightily, but his obscurely worded social observations make you want to snarl, "Shut up and dance, O'Dowd!"

It would take someone with the profound analytical skills of, say, Dr. Ruth, to explain the deeper meaning of "God Thank You Woman," which includes the lines "In this world you are my pleasure / No one else can compete." If those lyrics weren't being warbled by a man whose androgynous image had been promoted as a cultural phenomenon, they wouldn't be half as interesting. As it is, they still aren't that interesting.

Much of what used to seem different about Culture Club has fossilized into formula, but the album's closing cut, "Sexuality," has a new feel to it. Typically, the lyrics don't mean much, but the song's joyous, jumbled dance rhythms kick up some dust. If the album offered more in that vein, Boy George wouldn't look like just another novelty with eyeliner and a keen fashion sense.

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