This is the first ever box set from Culture Club, although long-suffering collectors will be aware of three previous best-of collections under the byline of the flamboyantly-dressed New Popsters. Still, this sumptuously-tooled four-discer arrives fully equipped with remixes, demos and previously unreleased songs, plus a no-expense-spared colour booklet for your coffee table pleasure. It’s like grunge never happened.
It’s still the well known stuff where the real magic lies. You will need no reminding of the cosmic pop ineffability of “Karma Chameleon”, the Motown-esque “Church Of The Poisoned Mind”, the lilting white reggae of “Do You Really Want 2 [sic] Hurt Me”, not to mention spectacular recent-ish comeback hit “I Just Wanna Be Loved”. Good to hear again, too, the exquisite ballad “Black Money” from their 1983 masterpiece, Colour By Numbers.
You may blanch visibly, by contrast, at “The War Song” or “The Medal Song”, while the rap-electro-dub yawn-fest of “Kipsy” or the flaccid reggae recreation of “Time” (both the latter are from disc 4, the so-called “Drumhead Sessions”) can only hasten the occurrence of a beer bottle-CD player interface.
Among the more amusing rarities are versions of Bowie’s “Starman” and “Suffragette City”, neatly skewering the Club’s glam roots, while “Genocide Peroxide” sounds bizarrely like The Cult.
Time and again, though, the demos assembled here capture our heroes in a state of dreary competence as they tinkle away in that Carib-pop vein which remains their most identifiable imprimatur. An early take of “Kissing To Be Clever” is the perfect illustration, while there’s a “Do You Really Want 2 Hurt Me” with a drum machine instead of Jon Moss which sounds like the finished version after it’s been hung up by its ankles and bled to death.
So, er, what? Well, you take what you need and you leave the rest.