We all know Dexys. Or at least, we all know Dexy’s Midnight Runners. We’ve all seen our uncles sweating buckets to 'Come On Eileen' at a wedding, but when Kevin Rowland decided it was time to revive the project back in 2012 with the brilliant One Day I’m Going To Soar, it reminded us that Dexys are not just a wedding band.
The brilliance of their first album, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, should not be forgotten; it has massive importance to the post-punk cannon. It made it clear that you didn’t need guitars to make good music. You didn’t even need synths.Searching For The Young Soul Rebels twisted traditional pop music with the Celtic music that second-generation Irishman Kevin Rowland heard growing up, creating a whirlpool of catchy, youthful and important pop.
Obviously, this was never going to last forever. Music changed, fashion changed and Rowland himself changed. On One Day I’m Going To Soar, Rowland didn’t seek to reignite that youthful fervour, instead creating an album of wonderful soul influenced songs. His voice still filled your heart with emotion and the songs still got your foot tapping, but were a lot more polished.
Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul is a project that Rowland says he wanted to do in 1984, but the band split before he got the chance. It’s a collection of Irish songs that have been reimagined alongside other 'selected compositions' that the band have chosen. The group, which now comprises of Kevin Rowland, Lucy Morgan and Sean Read, have gone to great lengths to explain that the album is not a stop gap. It is to be considered alongside the rest of the band's material; as a new chapter added to their cannon.
Opener ‘Woman Of Ireland’ sounds like classic Dexys song. Purely instrumental, it draws inspiration from a traditional poem of the same name, and a version that Kate Bush did. It has soft pianos, beautiful fiddle and Rowland’s voice slowly humming in the background. One of the greatest strengths of One Day I’m Going to Soar, was that Rowland’s voice was still fantastic, still possessing the richness it had at its peak. The first time we hear it here, though, on second track ‘To Love Somebody’, it seems almost a caricature of itself. He pronounces the words like a man doing a bad Kevin Rowland impression. It doesn’t last though, and when his voice is allowed space, it truly soars.
Musically though, it can all seem a bit too safe. ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ is dragged straight off a Seventies romance film, with all the strings and harps that feel a bit too dramatic. ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’ falls into the same trap. It feels too lush, too much like the original by Josef Locke and with not enough of Dexys actually present.
‘How Do I Live’, a cover of the LeAnn Rimes classic, shows the band at their best. It turns the cheesy pop hit into something with serious heart, and finds Rowland at his best. But maybe this is because, when we really get down to it, Dexys are a pop band. When they were at their peak, they had your heart beating and your feet dancing, all to their own tune.
‘Carrickfergus’ is a fitting closer, one of the songs that Rowland has been wanting to record for 30 years. On it the group finally seem to find the right balance of strings and emotion, and it smolders for all of six-and-a-half minutes before climaxing. It does well at bookending the project, opening the door for original material.
There are points on the album when the true Dexys shine through, but a lot of the time the band’s actual sound seems lost behind lush production, and that is a shame for a group of such obvious pop writing talent.
6Christian Northwood 's Score