Moving in to fill the vapid-soul vacancy left by Culture Club during that band’s terminal creative drought, England’s Blow Monkeys whipped up a disturbingly familiar-sounding bit of fluff, “Digging Your Scene,” for their second album. While the bowler-wearing Dr. Robert (Howard) manages a passable imitation of George’s vocals and songwriting, his subordinates are no match for the Clubbers, and the rest of Animal Magic is equally redundant and stupid. The title track is an appalling T. Rex knock-off; “Sweet Murder” attempts to rewrite Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra.” The LP’s most consistent feature is its pathetic lack of originality.
As an introduction to America, Forbidden Fruit mixes “Atomic Lullaby” and the Smithsy “Wild Flower” from Limping for a Generation with four foretastes of Animal Magic. The only items of note are a pair of crazed Eek-a-Mouse dub mixes that largely obscure the songs.
The uncontrollably egotistical Dr. R. sorted out his stylistic desires in time for She Was Only a Grocer’s Daughter, which consistently focuses on a danceable pop-soul format that crosses Culture Club’s basic ideas with lush ABC-like production, including enough strings and backing vocals — the credits list a dozen session singers — to pack a stadium. If the band can’t hack it instrumentally on their own, a studio full of players are on hand to help. The trivial songs at least sound fine; the peerless Curtis Mayfield provides a huge (if undeserved) credibility boost by dueting on the derivative “The Day After You.” The album title is an effete slap at Margaret Thatcher. (The CD adds two extra tracks.)
Most of There Goes the Neighbourhood sounds frighteningly like ABC, but a variety of producers (Stephen Hague, Leon Sylvers III, Julian Mendelsohn and the godlike talents of a certain Blow Monkey) prevents any consistent sound from jelling. Continuing his strange habit of setting strongly motivated left-wing criticisms of the state of contemporary England into ultra-commercial arrangements, Dr. Robert doesn’t so much share his political thoughts as allude to them coyly while his three bandmates and guests effortlessly and energetically pump out forgettably glib mush.
The Blow Monkeys followed Neighbourhood with a compilation of their UK hits. The Choices CD and tape add extended remixes and other bonus tracks.
Extending the misbegotten limits of pretentious conceptual insanity, Springtime for the World begins with blandly commercial pop-soul (the title track is a nifty Style Council imitation) but then turns absurdly global. “Reflections ’89” is an instrumental with soundbites from assorted world leaders; other songs appropriate Afrobeat accents, absurdly cramming them into a schmaltzy orchestral arrangement on “If You Love Somebody.” These confused fellas really need to straighten themselves out.