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It is difficult not to feel old when you think that it has been thirty years since British pop band Culture Club stormed the charts worldwide with one of their signature hits – the addictive and nostalgia-inducing “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”. Their debut album “Kissing to Be Clever” was also released in the same year. Fronted by the outrageous and “gender-bending” Boy George, the band was instantly launched into the upper echelons of Pop Music’s elite. Their sound was instantly recognizable and their look constitutes one of the most significant pieces of the imagery that characterizes pop culture of the 80s. The young lads are now in their 50s and are on the verge of celebrating their 30th anniversary with a tour and potentially a new album.
It is easy to dismiss Culture Club as being yet another band that is trying to capitalize on the nostalgia factor. With all the media frenzy that surrounded the band and Boy George’s public troubles, it is easy to forget that these guys were incredibly competenent musicians. I too have been guilty of forgetting about their competence as a band but my reminder was not their material from the 80s – but their 1998 album “Don’t Mind If I Do”. To the disappointment of many, the album was not released in the US. The promotion worldwide was less than stellar but it did spawn the UK chart hit “I Just Wanna Be Loved” (a mid-tempo reggae ballad). The album did not chart very high in the UK either. The real tragedy here lies in the fact that the band’s best material is on this album. I truly believe that if this album had been released in the post-internet era, things would have panned out very differently for Culture Club on a global scale. “Don’t Mind If I Do”became an unfortunate victim of music’s pre-internet era. Shining examples of the band’s artistry on this album include “Cold Shoulder”, “See Thru” and the haunting “Strange Voodoo”. Culture Club’s material from the 80s tends to get locked up in time whereas the songs on “Don’t Mind If I Do” transcend the musical boundaries that the 90s might have created. Here is a clip of a live performance of “Strange Voodoo” by Culture Club.
The performance above is a strong indication that at least on the dimension of artistic merit, the label of “80s band” is wildly inaccurate for a band like Culture Club. It is also a good reason to hope for strong material on the Culture Club album slated to be released in 2013 (and I seriously hope this project does not get shelved!). It appears that time away from each other causes the band members to gel even better musically when they are in a recording studio. Given that it has been 14 years since the release of “Don’t Mind If I Do”, there is a chance that “the distance” between the band members might act as a catalyst for their collective creativity. I do believe that this is not a lofty hope because the band performed a new mid-tempo song called “Universal Love” at Sydney Harbor on December 31, 2011 – and the song is absolutely brilliant. The chorus is very catchy and has a great “sing-along” feel to it. Boy George has obviously rediscovered his grasp of melody. He represents one of those rare instances in which the “disappearing youthfulness” in one’s voice actually enhances the musical product that the voice creates. Band-member Roy Hay also has a guitar solo section in the song that truly gives the song an edge. The background piano on the song adds a layer of sonic beauty that is virtually impossible to resist. “Universal Love” is already getting dangerously close to becoming one of my favorite Culture Club songs.
In a nutshell, new material by Culture Club in 2013 is absolutely worth getting excited for. If I have not given you enough reason to think so, here (below) is a full-length clip of Culture Club’s performance of “Universal Love” at Sydney Harbor.
What do you think of the song? Please feel free to comment below!
RADIO ALERT: Our radio station, Radio Creme Brulee is the ONLY American radio station (and possibly the only station in the world) that plays songs from Culture Club’s “Don’t Mind If I Do” album periodically. In fact, we play a LOT of material by artists/bands that emerged in the 80s and that continue to make groundbreaking and commercially viable music. Listen to our station from ANY part of the world by CLICKING on the button below.