Monday, 17 October 2011

Dexy's Midnight Runners - "There, There, My Dear"

Birmingham's self-described "young soul rebels" were the answers to their own prayers. Dexy's Midnight Runners' second album fades in with a ponderous sequence of gauche radio hits ("Purple Haze," "Holidays In The Sun"), skipping across the dial until frontman Kevin Rowland (in the time-honored tradition of being so fed up that he can only communicate through rock and roll) commands the band to "Burn It Down."

Though it lacks the parsimony of "Radio Radio" or the verve of "Clash City Rockers," the song doubles down on that familiar sentiment. On the surface, Dexy's took themselves so seriously that they made it difficult for anyone else to do the same. From their all-band uniforms (reinvented drastically with each of their three albums) to their smash-and-grab cultural politicking (which invoked corporate rock hegemony and the Northern Irish "Troubles" in the same breath), the group didn't just court their own mythology--they fabricated it. And, for the most part, Dexy's did it well. Their cool was anything but effortless (as the press photo above shows), but it worked, both at face value and as commentary on identity performance.

The band's tendency toward pastiche occasionally hampered the songs, which rarely veered from the sound of Northern Soul on amphetamines (less a rhetorical turn of phrase than a description of the scene), but Rowland could write a chorus, and the band had two number-one hits in the UK to show for it. 

For bonus reading, McSweeney's sums it all up a lot quicker. 

"There, There, My Dear" from Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

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