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Boy George
This Is What I Do Simon Price , November 1st, 2013 06:53

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In my recent interview with Boy George for The Quietus, he revealed that it was a review by Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph, referring to "his ruined voice", which inspired him to undertake a restorative health regime. Obviously, he wouldn't have bothered if he didn't think McCormick's assessment contained at least a germ of truth. Enough, at least, to encourage this reviewer attempt to coin a George Rex/Wrecks pun around the song ‘King Of Everything’ (then abandon it), and certainly enough to sting Britain's finest white male soul singer into looking after himself a little more carefully.

You can see why the comparison of his 52-year-old bones to a 500-year-old pile of stones might do that. But if George's voice is a ruin, then it's a beautiful one: his are the Tintern Abbey of tonsils, the Luxor of larynxes. If you crave the seraphic purity of the young George, then ‘Victims’, ‘Time (Clock Of The Heart)’, ‘Mistake No.3’, ‘That's The Way’ and ‘Black Money’ are preserved for eternity; no-one can take them away. But as a showcase for today's lived-in version - deeper and huskier now, like a male Marianne Faithfull - This Is What I Do serves its purpose nicely.

If John Lennon had a point when he said The Beatles were bigger than God, then the imaginary deity edges it over them in terms of influence over This Is What I Do. But only just. The Beatles get a direct mention in the Staple Singers-esque ‘Bigger Than War’, among a list of other icons, which avers that love is bigger than all of them... except Yoko. There's a cover version of Yoko Ono's ‘Death Of Samantha’. The single ‘King Of Everything’ has a breakdown straight out of ‘Dear Prudence’. The chorus "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there" is lifted from George Harrison's ‘Any Road’ (which itself paraphrases an exchange between the Cheshire Cat and Alice). And this might be clutching at straws, but contributor Martin Glover - aka Youth of Killing Joke - is a sometime McCartney sideman.

Perhaps surprisingly, the infractions made by religion onto the lyric sheet are not always positive ones. The album may end with a song which insists "all you can do is pray", but ‘My God’ details an unpleasant encounter with a Jesus freak in a New York gay bar - a true story, on what is a highly personal record. An alternate title for This Is What I Do might be This Is Who I Am, because it's the most 'him' album he's made for some time.

The opening lines are "Put down the booze/Let the demons win the fight/I drop my gloves down to the ground", and it isn't long before he's referring to his well-documented "self-destruction". Furthermore, the 'boy' in the Lover's Rock-flavoured ‘Live Your Life’ is clearly autobiographical: the verse "Everybody said the boy was strange/The raised him in whispers/Oh how they prayed the demons would go away/His daddy was cruel/He tried to make him tough/Always afraid to give him too much love..." will ring true to anyone who's read Take It Like A Man or watched Worried About The Boy.

In musical terms, it's merely a foreshadowing of what's to come. After the anomalous ‘It's Easy’, an old-timey country heartbreaker in the style of Patsy Cline, there follows a run of five successive reggae tracks, perhaps unsurprisingly for an album that's produced by Richie Stevens and features cameos from none other than Dennis Bovell.

The first of these, ‘My Star’, is dominated by rapper Unknown MC's apocalyptic ruminations. Another Lover's Rocker, ‘Love And Danger’, features a writing credit for Culture Club's Mikey Craig. The jubilant skank of ‘Nice And Slow’ is likeable despite its cringey product placement ("I'm just like Patsy/I got my sparkle back again"), and has a guest spot from Dreadzone's MC Spee, as does the expansive dubplate ‘Play Me’. Finally, ‘Feel The Vibration’ delivers a fire-and-brimstone prophecy with the help of Arabic oud player Nizar Al Issa.

If all you want from Boy George is to hear his voice caressing a reggae melody the way it did on ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ or ‘Everything I Own’, This Is What I Do leaves you spoiled for choice. Ruined, in fact.

Derrick
Nov 1, 2013 12:16pm

"The jubilant skank of ‘Nice And Slow’ is likeable despite its cringey product placement ("I'm just like Pepsi/I got my sparkle back again")"

I think you'll find that it actually goes "I'm just like Patsy/I got my sparkle back again" which is a reference to Patsy Kensit...

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James
Nov 1, 2013 3:40pm

I wasn't as impressed with this album as you were. I heard King of Everything on the radio and loved it. There were one or two other tracks in that vein that I liked, but for me there was too much reggae. I wanted more pop/rock songs All the reggae songs started to sound the same to me. People associate CC with purely reggae, but if you listen to their older records there were diverse, as was George's solo work in the 90's. I find this over reliance on reggae rather dull and predictable. I actually found the whole album rather bland. I didn't get much sense of George's personality or that it was really him at all. I actually found there's more of the real George in something like the Twin, his electro project.

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Aimee
Nov 1, 2013 4:24pm

I've always found Boy George to be such an overrated artist by the media. His vocals on this album are raspy and strained. There's nothing great about them. And the songs are quite dull MOR and pseudo reggae with cliched lyrics yet he is always hailed as this musical genius. Whereas the media jumps all over and finds endless flaws other 80s icons like George Michael, Madonna and Prince who are much more talented and innovative. Is it just the makeup and the hat that impresses everyone?

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Michael
Nov 23, 2013 3:58pm

A great album, love most of the songs. Nice & Slow is very happy go lucky and puts you in a good mood. Glad is back, clean and doing what he does best: a songwriter & singer, a rare combo now a days.

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