Be warned, this his latest recording by last millennium’s more colorful UK character isn’t entirely new. U Can Never B2 Straight is in fact sees an acoustic reworking of a number his old songs. Maybe it’s a reflection of my elderly sensibilities, but I love most of the stripped down versions of his tracks.
I mean, who would’ve thought the cheerfully camp Bow Down Mister works equally well unplugged? It may not be a work of art, but any song that can combine Bollywood grandeur with excesses of camp to produce religious enlightenment, pink thong style, is a work of genius in my book. Likewise, the track Ich Bin Kunst that kicks off this track is a bombastic track that has Boy George cheerfully exaggerating his gay qualities, all the whole singing “I’m satire, you’re parody!” with a well-aimed sense of irony.
But perhaps Ich Bin Kunst is a foreshadowing of things to come: the tracks here are collected to form a theme that deals with coming out, gay life and its ups and downs (mostly downs), and homophobia. All’s good – who knows, this CD may just turn out to a growing up experience to sexually confused teenagers out there just as Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes is to many teenage (and not so teenage) girls. But most of the songs are often preachy and didactic in nature (She Was Never He, a song dealing with transsexuality that degenerates into a rant against the UK government policy), for example) and thus tedious after a while.
Boy George shines when he’s more introspective. Letter to a School Friend is a hilarious yet cathartic song that may just be the culmination of everything one may want to yell/dump on old school friends. Fat Cat, in its stripped down version, is lovely and with lines like “You’re the dirt on my collar, you’re the hole in my favourite shoe; you’re the last dying breath of love, you’re the weight that I need to lose”, well, it can’t be wrong.
But the best track is II Adore, surely, a heartbreaking song to a dying loved one. The lyrics are a bit on the heavy-handed side, like too many songs in this collection, but it is Boy George’s heartfelt delivery that provides the sincerity this song needs to work. The hidden track, Out of Fashion, is taken from his musical Taboo is a nice track to end the album.
I doubt anyone who has Boy George’s previous CDs should rush out and get this one. The songs here aren’t significantly different in their previous incarnations. But nonetheless, despite getting a bit heavy-handed too many times, U Can Never B2 Straight is an often wonderful listening experience.