It’s probably fair to say that there are two versions of Kevin Rowland‘s public persona – the dungaree-wearing dandy of Come On Eileen and the lingerie-wearing weirdo of his last comeback attempt. In reviving the Dexys brand, can One Day I’m Going To Soar revive the fortunes – and image – of one of the great lost talents of the British music industry?
Quite possibly, it can. It’s been 27 years since their last release (as Dexys Midnight Runners, of course) and they have slipped into the hellish world of one-hit-wonders and 80s obscurities, remembered fondly by beer-swilling 40-somethings at karaoke nights and wedding discos, but forgotten as a creative force, even though there was always so much more to them than dungarees and Come On Eileen.
Rowland’s years since then have been pretty disastrous artistically, battling drug addiction and coming up the bizarre plan to relaunch himself in the late 90s by wearing drag at Glastonbury. The humiliation he suffered then is presumably why it’s taken more than another decade for him to re-emerge, so it’s definitely to his credit that he’s come back so strongly.
Wisely getting back together with Mick Talbot, Big Jim Paterson and Pete Williams, there’s enough integrity about the ‘new’ Dexys to warrant the return to the name (albeit slightly abbreviated), and there’s enough quality on One Day I’m Going To Soar to offer hope that this could be a permanent return for a band with more than just 80s nostalgia in their arsenal.
From the opening chants and anthemic blasts of Now, it’s obvious that Rowland hasn’t lost his songwriting knack in all these years (his last solo album, of course, was full of covers), and Lost is even better. Dexys never sounded specifically ’80s’, with so many influences from 60s pop and soul, so unlike many of their contemporaries, there’s no danger of them sounded dated upon their return.
The clear highlight, and obvious first single, it She Got A Wiggle, which emphasises those soul influences and has a sexy Al Green vibe about it, while also bringing to the fore one of the album’s main themes – Kevin Rowland’s battles with love and sex. This becomes even more evident on the duo of I’m Always Going To Love You and Incapable Of Love; song titles that pretty much sum up his conflicting messages.
Both of those feature Madeleine Hyland on vocals, and while her spoken-word contributions to I’m Always Going To Love You (which is a lot less romantic than it sounds) are a little bit hammy and irritating, she’s much better when she’s sparring with Rowland on the latter. The lyrics throughout are typically confessional and autobiographical, not least on Nowhere Is Home, and, obviously, Me.
The album closes with two of its strongest songs, offering messages of optimism and hope, particularly on the breezy and gorgeous Free, while It’s OK John Joe sees Rowland in full-on crooner mode, and loving every minute of it. His personal demons have certainly held him back over the last (almost) 30 years, but from the sound of this new album, he’s already soaring, and we can all hope that there’s more to come from him and from Dexys. It’s great to have them back.