This record defies logic in many ways. There is absolutely no reason why this should be an enjoyable record and yet it’s one of the most easily enjoyable records to ever have been released. Against any and all sorts of judgment and conviction, if you have a beating heart, you should find yourself soaking in this record’s irresistible charm. What is it about this record that is so captivating? Is it Boy George’s slightly off-balance, awkward charm? Is it his effortlessly smooth, warm vocal delivery? Is it how easily the band as a whole are able to convey these simple pop songs? A combination of all of these elements? Well, there are many components that make up this 1983 release, one of the best pop records of the decade.
From the very start of the record when we are offered “Karma Chameleon”, Culture Club’s biggest hit to this day, this sort of gooey charm takes ahold of the listener. Once this charm has taken hold, there is no turning back. Quite literally, the entire record rides the wavelength that is set into place on the first track. This doesn’t mean that the record is same-same or that it lacks depth. The band are just as capable of pumping out heartfelt ballads as they are colorful pop standards (“Black Money” and “Victims”), but they are definitely at their best when they’re tackling these fun, upbeat pop knockouts. In that regard, this is the record that keeps on going. Lesser known tracks like “Stormkeeper” and “It’s a Miracle” are just as captivating and charming as the opener mentioned above and “Church of the Poison Mind”, although this track is tough to beat. One thing that can be easy to forget when listening to this record, especially nowadays, is how innovative and important Boy George was as a figure in popular culture. There is an entire generation of homosexuals that will testify to George being a major inspiration to them; a figure of strength and courage; owning his sexuality and showing the world that there was no shame whatsoever in it. In fact, George was so forthcoming and blatant with it that it was something that came off naturally. Sure, his image was part of Culture Club’s gimmick and success, but it was also something that was genuine. In 2017, this is an aspect of the Culture Club story that we often overlook. Too often they get lumped into the lame ’80s pop category.
Don’t be fooled by those who throw this band or this record under the bus. This is an excellent creative effort. In fact, this is the record that should’ve gotten all of the attention that Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (a highly overrated record) would get. The organic nature in which this record unfolds matched with its complete rejection of any kind of pretension is a model that lighthearted pop artists should always try to follow. Culture Club sound so put together on this record that you’d think rehearsal was either a term that they didn’t know the meaning of (who needs it when you’re that good) or one that they mastered to the point of obsession. One way or the other, few bands mingle better together on a record than these guys do on ‘Colour by Numbers’.