In the spirit of lazy music journalism, two things need to be mentioned immediately. The first has to do with the artist behind this release: yes, it’s that Boy George. And yes, he’s the fellow behind the quote about preferring a nice cup of tea to the act of sex.
The second has to do with this release itself. Like any good disk jockey worth his or her salt who has released a mixed CD, A Night out with Boy George takes the listener on that ubiquitous “journey”, from the exhortation and bongos that start Jon Carter’s “Everlasting Life”, the beginning leg of the trip, to the chanting polyrhythms of The Dealer’s “The Dealer”, which ends it. (In a doubly solipsistic move, the record ends with a song named for the artist who performs it, and the last audible noise is the echoing voice of the unnamed narrator of the song saying, “It’s cool, man, really cool”, perhaps as a comment on the set you’ve just experienced. Whoever had the idea that one key idea of DJing — bringing the noise to the people, man, the people — isn’t essentially a move for prima donnas and egotists needs to be reminded that the fold in Paul Oakenfold stands for the oak-sized crease in his wallet.)
At any rate, this release demonstrates that this former Culture Clubber has his mind, hands, and decks on the club culture once again (he deejayed in the late 1970s, when global success was a scant harmonica hook and riverboat dance scene away). The aforementioned “Everlasting Life” sounds like a vintage Bobby Konders production, only with a squelchier pulsating bass, better robotic vocals, and a pumped-up bpm. And there’s a really big sound to this opener that would undoubtedly play well bouncing off sweaty bodies and cold walls of steel. “Auto-Erotic” is less the sound of (mutual) masturbatory fantasies in the balcony of the Paradise Garage that its title suggests than it is literal soundclash between the ethereal vocals of George himself and some effects straight out of Battle Beyond the Stars (which, coincidentally, if memory serves, had two androgynous alien characters, not including Richard Thomas). George’s voice sounds less constrained and much more mature than it did in his chartpop days, by the way, which makes me wonder if Xtina was the powers-that-be’s best choice for last year’s “Lady Marmalade” cover.
In a nice pair of juxtapositions with a subsequent pair of songs, the hopeful diva vocals that begin and whirl through the Gay and Lesbian Disco Association’s “Julian” grind up against the song’s gritty bass. It’s this bass that provides a (rainbow) bridge to the altogether scarier unrequited funk and pitch-shifted vocal hook of “I Need Ya”. In a testament to George’s creativity here, these two song titles read together make up a sentence, while the next two might make up the eponymous Julian’s hissy response: “Yess” / “U Need It”.
Yum Yum vs. Deva’s “Dizzy” (Is this a bootleg? Doesn’t George bemoan the lack of originality in dance music by using bootlegs as the yardstick for how bad things have become? Confusing, yes, but the song is a real gem on here and should’ve been included on Global Hits 2002.) Wins the prize for best lyric not in a Sheryl Crow song — “I just wanna bitch / Shake my ass a bit / See where the road is gonna lead me now” — while its neighbor, “Come With Me” by T-Total, is a Caribbean Marlene Dietrich torch song for the house generation. And while we’re on the subject of pop divas, Baz’s “Smile to Shine” recalls a heavier Nellee Hooper production of one of Bjork’s wide-eyed psalms.
Weirdly, the soapboxing platitudes in and industrial-hard beats of Stefano Gruppi’s “Freedom Is …” and the metallic percussion of Plump DJs’ “Big Groovy Fucker” are a re-resurrected EBM, moving its long-dormant body. Only this time around, the shirtless boys jacking their bodies are wearing better-looking pants and taking better drugs.
It’s difficult to listen to a DJ-mix CD as varied and as consistently interesting as this one in the confines of a home-stereo system. Granted, I’d be less wordy and use fewer pop-cultural allusions if I was jumping around like a loony in a swank club, but somehow, this latter way of listening and behaving sounds more and more like the only way to listen and behave in the presence of the Boy.