Moving in to fill the vapid-soul vacancy left by Culture Club during that band’s terminal creative drought, England’s Blow Monkeys whipped up a disturbingly familiar-sounding bit of fluff, Digging Your Scene (1986), for their second album.
While the absurdly named bowler-wearing vocalist “Dr” Robert (Howard) managed a passable imitation of Boy George’s vocals and songwriting, his subordinates were no match for Culture Club, and the rest of the Animal Magic album was equally redundant.
As an introduction to America, Forbidden Fruit mixed Atomic Lullaby and The Smiths-derived Wild Flower (from Limping for a Generation) with four foretastes of Animal Magic.
The uncontrollably egotistical Dr R. sorted out his stylistic desires in time for She Was Only a Grocer’s Daughter, which consistently focused on a danceable pop-soul format that crossed Culture Club‘s basic ideas with lush ABC-like production, including enough strings and backing vocals (the credits list a dozen session singers) to pack a stadium.
If the band couldn’t hack it instrumentally on their own, a studio full of players were on hand to help.
Most of There Goes the Neighbourhood sounded frighteningly like ABC, but a variety of producers prevented any consistent sound from jelling.
Continuing his strange habit of setting strongly motivated left-wing criticisms of the state of contemporary England into ultra-commercial arrangements, Dr Robert – who was born in Norfolk, spent his teenage years in Australia and played briefly for Norwich City football club – didn’t so much share his political thoughts as allude to them coyly while his three bandmates and guests effortlessly pumped out forgettably glib mush.
The Blow Monkeys followed Neighbourhood with a compilation of their UK “hits”.
News in 2007 that Dr R had reunited with his old pals for some new recording didn’t exactly attract headlines, although Devil’s Tavern (2008) was an accomplished album proving that the Blow Monkeys had matured like a fine wine.