“Reinvented for a new millennium” with a first tour and single in 17 years, Dexys are back. DEXYS ARE BACK! Three little words some of us dreamed of hearing even more than “Cameron Diaz is your new neighbour” or “Tell you what, we’ll waive those back taxes.” With a best-of featuring two new numbers of titanic genius, and Kevin Rowland seemingly fully focused again, this could be magic.
The adverse reaction to Rowland’s ’99 solo album My Beauty was one of the saddest indicators of the music industry and media’s new conservatism. Beauty? Nobody wanted to know. Poets, mavericks? Whisper it-individualism? The Indie Lad Factory, while considering itself so morally superior to TV’s Pop Idol zone, was bewildered, threatened, lacked the wit or agility to make the imaginative leap required. Dexys always demanded a suspension of disbelief, a finding of buried treasure deep within your soul. Whereas such gauche ambition and courage was once applauded, it’s now derided. Which means everyone hides their lights under bushels and everything goes backwards. Music is approximately one quarter as inspiring as it was when Dexys were flying. I don’t mean: ’twas all green fields round here and you could leave your front door open. I mean: where are the youthful folly and bravado (from artists of any age) which make outstanding (rather than solid) records?
Dexys were outstanding (in three different incarnations), and we can hope they’ll chuck a few cats among the pigeons again, because Rowland is not one for half-measures. In the Searching For The Young Soul Rebels era they roared with soulful horns and horny soul. Present here, among others (Kevin oversaw track selection) are “Geno”, “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green”, and the thrilling “There, There My Dear”. From the gazillion-selling gypsy-dress Too-Rye-Ay period we have “Let’s Make This Precious”, “The Celtic Soul Brothers”, the uniquely dynamic “Plan B” and of course “Come On Eileen”. Plus the epic, wonderful, fearless “Until I Believe In My Soul”.
From the Citizen Kane of cult albums, Don’t Stand Me Down, there’s the full version of the transcendent “This Is What She’s Like”, plus “I Love You” and “My National Pride”. Already, then, golden. (Reservations? There’s no “Liars A To E”, “Old”, or “Keep It”… you can’t have everything.) But you’ll be wanting to know about the new songs. “Manhood”?the single?is a rip-roaring return, sounding like a moment of yearning from somewhere between the second and third LPs. Kevin, singing beautifully, assesses his own prickliness and distress, confessing to insecurity and fear of rejection, before a call-and-response set-piece avows that one avenue still open to him is “spirituality”. “My Life In England (Part One)” is equally glorious, as the singer, over Too-Rye-Ay-style fiddles-and-handclaps flourishes, looks back at a troubled childhood in Wolverhampton and Harrow. With sheer zest and candour (not to mention catchiness), these intense songs explore (and celebrate) emotional turbulence, emerging exuberant. These days, it’s like seeing a Van Gogh in a room full of Jenny Holzer. The new Dexys should be allowed to settle in, find their feet, then blaze. Because as this music proves, when Dexys blaze, the world moves from b/w to colour. Believe: this is what it’s like.