We gave it a B+
Years after plunging off the pop charts, Boy George has finally found a safe place to land. For this new album, The Martyr Mantras, George gives up even trying to re-create the conventional pop-R&B that, along with Liberace-like flamboyance, made him a star in the early ’80s; instead he opts for the minimal structure of pure house music. His new tracks are mainly long, repetitive journeys, concentrating on sensual bass lines and expressive rhythms. The only melody comes from George’s silky, insinuating voice, and for the most part that’s enough. If anything, the spare arrangements stress what a wonderful singer George remains. Simultaneously fey and determined, he conveys a tender reassurance and an emphatic strength. Just as emotionally nuanced are the synthesized bass lines that dominate the record. In ”Generations of love” and ”One on One” they create a hypnotic groove, reminiscent of the extended soul tracks pioneered by Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield in the early ’70s. George even directly recalls Mayfield with his husky falsetto in ”Love’s Gonna Let U Down.” Other, more whimsical ’70s influences pop up in ”Love Hurts,” a song in the style of the disco group Silver Convention. Still, for the most part, the record could not be more up to date. Cynics may therefore accuse George of trendiness, but there’s something poignant about his strategy. Spurned by the mainstream, the singer now may be targeting a crowd willing to accept anyone who can keep them on the dance floor. In return, George has given that crowd house music worth taking home.