Dexys, One Day I’m Going to Soar
So many of my favorite bands from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s (Real Kids, Faust, Gravel Pit) have returned after long absences that I’m a little worried that it’s a portent of doom. But considering how strong all these albums are—remarkable returns to form, after years in the wilderness—it’s more of a portent that space and time will come to lack meaning and the future is uncommonly bright.
This Dexys album has been out in the UK since 2012, but wasn’t available for US download for ages after its overseas release. Unable to get it at first, I forgot all about it and only this month was reminded of its existence.
One Day I’m Going to Soar represents the first Dexys (or Dexys Midnight Runners) album in something like 27 years. Strangely though, it begins right where the last album, Don’t Stand Me Down, left off, with long conversational songs about romantic confusion and bitter break-ups. Stranger still, Don’t Stand Me Down was a record that basically destroyed the band, taking them in a leisurely, reflective direction that the hordes of peppy, stepdancing “C’mon Eileen” fans could not fathom.
Me, I was a fan of all Dexy Midnight Runners albums, from their high-energy early experiments blending punk, trad folk and soul (“Dance Stance,” “Geno”) to their later soul-searching (“This is What She’s Like”). I was enraptured with Don’t Stand Me Down, played it endlessly, forced it upon friends. proclaimed it the best thing I’d heard in 1985 and felt validated when many of the British music journals which had lambasted it upon its initial release did complete about-faces and sang its praises highly when it was reissued on CD in 1997 and again (“the director’s cut”) in 2002.
One Day I’m Going to Soar has the same mawkish inward-turning sentimentality as Don’t Stand Me Down, and yes it’s no surprise that it may be a turn-off for many listeners. But both albums have sustained drama that I find riveting even it when it gets flip or melodramatic. Midway through One Day I’m Going to Soar is a mini-musical called “I’m Always Going to Love You,” in which Kevin Rowland (Dexys leader and only sustaining member) tells a woman (Madeleine Hyland) he loves her, gets her to confess her love for him, then abruptly has second thoughts and dumps her. It all takes place in one four and a half minute song, but what’s truly distinctive is the torrents of abuse hurled at Rowland by the aggrieved Hyland. “Kevin! Don’t talk to me!,” she wails in Aretha Franklinesque female soul-furor. It all happens over an old-school Philly-soul beat, with the vocal interplay sounding improvised even though it’s obviously tightly scripted. There’s little you can compare this song to. And it’s matched by much of the rest of the One Day I’m Going to Soar album. Mixing soul swagger with insecurities, antagonisms and oafish insolence is something Dexys has done for years, and it’s still unsettling and disarming and bizarre and brilliant.