ON A musical level, dance music is about the interaction between melody and rhythm. As pop culture, though, dance music is about sex and style, and that's usually the level at which the biggest dance hits ultimately kick in. Trouble is, it's easier for a group to tap into sex and style than it is to unlock the chemistry of melody and rhythm. Here's how a handful of recent albums grapple with the problem.

CULTURE CLUB -- "From Luxury to Heartache" (Epic OE 40345). If the title flirts with emotional decline, the music itself is far more explicit about the band's own fortunes. Sure, Boy George O'Dowd remains the clever crooner he's always been, but the rest of the Club crumples under the weight of Arif Mardin's high-gloss production. Still, even that might have been bearable had the songs been more than mere cliche's, vainly trying to evoke the charm of the band's early efforts. Not a total waste of time, but close enough.

MODELS -- "Out of Mind Out of Sight" (Geffen GHS 24100). That this Australian quintet hopes to follow INXS into the upper reaches of the American charts is certainly no secret, but neither is the band quite so calculating. Thanks to no-nonsense production by Mark Opitz, the Models have punch aplenty, matching rhythmic resilience with the kind of power chord aggression typical of Aussie guitar bands. Add in solid songwriting and utterly serviceable singing, and the only thing that could top this album is the cassette, which boasts an additional six tracks.

HOWARD JONES -- "Action Replay" (Elektra 9 60466-1Y). A likable lightweight, Howard Jones is best sampled in small, hit- intensive doses, which is exactly what this six-song EP offers. Three of the selections are remixes of material already available, and make the most of the groovemanship implied in Jones' percolating electronics. Of the others, only "No One Is to Blame" is worthy of note, largely because of the easy appeal of Jones' singing.

HUMPE HUMPE -- "Humpe Humpe" (Warner Brothers 9 25402). Imagine Abba as a German duo produced in the style of the Eurythmics, and you'll have an idea of how Humpe Humpe sound. True, the singing lacks some of the fire Frieda and Agnetha provided, but then again, Abba never managed to sound quite so naughty as Humpe Humpe seem in "3 of Us," nor as witty as in the mock-Japanese "Yama-ha."

KING -- "Bitter Sweet" (Epic BFE 40322). As modern pop bands go, King has a lot to offer. The arrangements are impressively polished, referring to the latest trends without pandering, and the songwriting is canny enough to make the most of each hook without exhausting it. But Hall King is very simply a terrible singer, with a flat, nasal tone and a self-conscious delivery, which no amount of post-production gloss can mask. $90J.D. Considine.