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Space cowboy

HOLLY JOHNSON
Dreams That Money Cant Buy

MCA 10278/MC/CD

GAME SHOW host, childrens entertainer, randy space cadet, good-hearted comic-strip villain, doe-eyed lover… theres something of everything in the 1991 model Holly Johnson. Everything, that is, but the greedy-eyed KY boy in leather undies who set out to corrupt and deprave the youth of a nation in 1984.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood seems a long time ago when you listen to ‘Dreams That Money Cant Buy, and not always for the right reasons.

Holly has scrupulously cleaned up his act since the messy demise of Frankie. ‘Blast!, his first solo LP in 1989, was all muscular power pop in the then-fashionable House-free idiom.

But it aged quicker than cheese on a radiator, and all the Andy Richards—sponsored hot House injections on ‘Dreams dont dispel the fear of a similar fate. The same problem remains: Holly loves the maximum stomp of classic hi-NRG but he cant always translate it adequately into ‘90s pop.

When he can hes on to a real winner, like on the opening single, ‘Across The Universe, a self explanatory crazy acid whirl in space with much silliness and bucketfuls of Hollys adorable camp naffness: “Astronauts in love!” he croons inimitably, as small aliens swoon and cheer from a passing asteroid.

But by the time youre halfway through side one, the dense dancebeats and kitchen-sink arrangements (synth-brass, backing choirs, robo-percussion and unnameable noises by the hodful) will have you reaching for Ativan instead of Ecstasy. The only shade from Hollys blinding disco lights comes in clunky ballads like ‘I Need Your Love, and Holly the Lovelorn was never as much fun as Holly the Voracious Sex Puppy.

Nor was Holly the Patron of the Arts. ‘Boyfriend ‘65' was apparently birthed when Holly applied William Burroughs fold-in method to the Boyfriend Annual 1965, which doesnt excuse such a pasty-faced love-tune but certainly gets a Brits nomination for Most Pretentious And ill-Advised Songwriting Device.

Contrary to popular belief, Holly has a voice and a half and it seems crazy to swamp it like this. Put him in the studio with Frankie Knuckles next time and perhaps hell come to terms with the ‘90s as well as he did the ‘80s.

☆☆

ANDREW HARRISON