Review: Dexys – One Day I’m Going to Soar
Published on June 15th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Not since 1985 have we had a studio album from Dexys Midnight Runners, so you can account for the One Day part of the title right there. Does it soar? Oh, yes. Welcome back Kevin Rowland, Midnight Runners or no Midnight Runners.
Ever since the band’s halcyon days, the world has seen…nah, we’re not going to do that – let’s just crack on with the tunes. Opener “Now” starts as a gentle sort of piano thing before suddenly bounding into chants of “attack!”, a blown sense of security that, unbeknownst to us at this stage, props up the LP’s lyrical themes rather effectively. It then settles into a steady soul strut as Rowland, still in fine voice it must be said, uncorks the self-exploratory introspection that runs rampant: “In my youngest years, it seemed to me that anything was possible.” Many would say that this erstwhile self-belief was well-placed, and that winning way with melody remains intact.
“Lost” continues in this vein: “If I think about young childhood days and how things used to be / I always think about the summers, they’re my favourite memories / I was always dreaming about something, like how my life could be / Full of music, girls and clothes, I dreamed about beauty / And it was good but there was always disturbance in my mind / Pretty soon it was obvious that I was lost inside”. The initial section of “Lost” could certainly be described as ‘mature’-sounding, being as it is a slow piano trot with wistful string arrangements, but again a sudden release of energy is just around the corner, even if it is measured of pace and shorn of the frantic horn sections of yore
“There’s something wrong with me / People don’t respect me / Don’t seem to like me / They want to hurt me so” Rowland protests on the sleek ‘n’ loungey electric piano shuffle of “Me” before cranking up the levels of paranoia with softly spoken utterances of “I wanna get out of this”, while “She Got a Wiggle” brings the kind of sassy soul which characterises our protagonist’s more decadent inclinations amidst the brewing battle between monogamy and polygamy.
“You” sounds like one of The Rolling Stones’ more romantic turns, wielding both a piano riff that lightly echoes that of The Kinks’ “The Village Green Preservation Society” and perhaps the most extravagant pronunciation of ‘obsession’ (“ob-seh-SHON!”) ever committed to record. “I told you I was happy / Well, I was lying” strikes as a rather pointed line here, and along with the discordant seven-minute cabaret of “I’m Thinking of You” it heralds a tide of confessional self-dissection/laceration.
“I’m Always Going to Love You” is quite astonishing, Madeleine Hyland’s unimpressed-sounding interjections punctuating Rowland’s clichéd exhortations of affection: “I’ve gotta say one thing…” – “What’s that?” – “I want you!” – “Oh, right.” – “And for all time!” – “Oh, I see.” Perhaps swayed by the funky bass section and breezy soul strings, Hyland’s character eventually reciprocates, even joining in with the impassioned refrain of “I-I-I-I’m always going to love you” refrain…
…but this is clearly when shit gets real for Rowland, who backtracks: “I wasn’t thinking – I’m so confused.” – “You just said to me that you love me!” – “I think I’m going round the bend, and we must end.” – “What??” – “Sorry darling, I don’t know how to love you.” – “Kevin, just go.” – “Okay.” All throughout this portrayal of a hastily aborted love affair, the music remains triumphantly upbeat. Rocksucker would like to think that such perverseness, such contrariness, was entirely the intention.
This all continues into “Incapable of Love” – “I didn’t know what I was talking about…I won’t say those three words any more” – and still the swinging, good-time Dexys feel remains, carefree and seductive as if taking its lead from you know who. We won’t give away the ensuing exchange, but it somehow manages to be as fun as it is brutally honest/self-deceiving (it’s got to be one or the other), like Grease rewritten by a middle-aged, self-doubting polygamist.
Rowland takes time out from casting aspersions on his suitability to the simple life on “Nowhere is Home”, instead taking the chance to bemoan his ambiguous ancestry (“I can’t be a fucking stereotype but it’s lonely being here and living this fight” over a stately, medium-paced soul backing, before “Free” places miniature angel and devil Rowlands on each of his shoulders: “They say if you don’t marry you will be lonely” – “Oh yeah?” – “All good men raise a family” – “Oh yeah?” – “But that’s not what I see – in truth some of them don’t seem so happy / They tolerate misery / Well that is not for me / I don’t want to be like them / I’m a man who must be free”.
And then the coup de grâce: “Why would I want to buy a book when I can join a library? / It makes no sense to me!” Quite.
“It’s O.K. John Joe” apparently began life as an email from Kevin to a friend – its contemplative minor-key piano arpeggios and spoken-word self-analysis make for a welcome change of pace, albeit the findings of said analysis are not so reassuring: “I do believe in love, Johnny, but I don’t know anything about it / I know about depending on people, I know about controlling people / I know about using people until I’m tired of them / I know about getting someone to love me as a challenge and then not wanting them when I have them / But real love? I don’t know anything about that”.
Suffice it to say, “It’s O.K. John Joe” is hardly a barrel of laughs: “I’m unhappy living like this, feeling ugly and tired, jaded inside / I’ve worked hard to find some peace, but at best it’s only fleeting”. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that “it’s not the end of the world, ’cause I think that I’m meant to be alone”, that word ‘alone’ warbled as the music falls out for striking emphasis. Suddenly – a word that’s pretty much synonymous with the album by this point – it burst into an exultant, staccato-stringed, Dexys-of-old gallop for the last minute or so as Rowland chants “free!” over the top, perhaps never to resolve the conflict he now seems resigned to.
File One Day I’m Going to Soar alongside this year’s LPs from Lambchop and Tindersticks as a record to pour yourself a whiskey and snuggle up with, ready to well and truly lose yourself in its world-weary yet blissfully soulful itinerary. Mr Rowland – whatever your love life holds for you, please don’t fall out of love with the wonderful music you make.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
One Day I’m Going to Soar is out now on BMG. For more information, please visit dexys.info