Title: Space cowboy
Author: Andrew Harrison
Dreams That Money Can’t Buy
GAME SHOW host, children’s entertainer, randy space cadet, good-hearted comic-strip villain, doe-eyed lover… there’s 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 Can’t 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’ don’t dispel the fear of a similar fate. The same problem remains: Holly loves the maximum stomp of classic hi-NRG but he can’t always translate it adequately into ‘90s pop.
When he can he’s 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 Holly’s adorable camp naffness: “Astronauts in love!” he croons inimitably, as small aliens swoon and cheer from a passing asteroid.
But by the time you’re 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 Holly’s 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 doesn’t 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 he’ll come to terms with the ‘90s as well as he did the ‘80s.