Following a turbulent four years which saw him sentenced to community service for falsely reporting a burglary, denied a Visa for his 2008 North American tour, and more seriously, serve a four-month jail sentence for false imprisonment, troubled '80s star Boy George has spent the last 12 months attempting to remind everyone why he became such a defining pop icon in the first place. After providing vocals for Mark Ronson's Record Collection, the announcement of an impending Culture Club reunion and a critically acclaimed BBC biopic of his early days, his career rehabilitation continues with Ordinary Alien, his first album of new material since 1998's odds-and-sods collection Unrecoupable One Man Bandit, and his first proper studio LP since 1995's Cheapness and Beauty. As its title suggests, it's a collaborative effort with the German producer Kinky Roland, who's worked with George over the last 15 years, and features remixes of some of his noughties material and a host of brand new compositions which are firmly entrenched in George's club DJ roots rather than the David Bowie-influenced rock of its predecessor. Opening track "Turn 2 Dust" an empowering attack on prejudice set against a backdrop of subtle trance hooks, gorgeous twinkling piano chords, and flashes of dub reggae, shows that George hasn't lost his ability to tackle combing tough lyrics with beautiful pop melodies in his 13-year solo exodus. "Yes We Can," a liberating gospel-fused slice of progressive house which samples Barack Obama's famous speech of the same name, "Brand New," a blissful fusion of Chicane-esque dreamy electronica and Vangelis-style neo-classical pop, and "Amazing Grace," an enchanting blend of Eurovision techno and haunting Portuguese fado vocals, which continues to explain why the dance scene has taken George to their hearts, just like the pop world did three decades prior. But just as the four-to-the-floor beats and acidic basslines formula begin to wear a little thin toward the middle of the album, George changes tack for the second half with a more eclectic, genre-straddling sound. The rumbling synths, skittering rhythms, and Philip Something's disengaged Bernard Sumner-ish tones on "Seconds" recall the Chemical Brothers' pulsating "Out of Control"; "Look Pon U" is an infectious blend of warbling subwoofer techno and bouncy dancehall; while the post-punk beats, chunky bass riffs, and quirky electronic effects on the tongue-in-cheek "Kill the A&R" echo the experimental dance-rock of CSS. However, the expletive-laden "Here Come the Girls," not the Ernie K.Doe standard, is a messy attempt at sleazy, Peaches-influenced electro-clash, while "Time Machine," originally a gorgeous understated duet with Amanda Ghost, is turned into a generic floor-filler, as is his pointless cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." The oxymoronic title of Ordinary Alien, therefore, couldn't be more apt. At times, George could be just another ten-a-penny faceless dance act, and at others, he sounds like he's from another planet. But bar a few self-indulgent missteps, it's good to have him back.
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