The Man From The Hornet on the return of Dexys…
Much ink and blog space is being taken up this weather with the return of Kevin Rowland and Dexys – the new album One Day I’m Going to Soar has been released to great critical fanfare.
His new look is a bit special, too.
It has long been common practice in the world of manufactured pop to find an ornamental boy or boys, scrub ‘em up nice, dress them like Barbie’s Ken and cover their inability to sing with a cunning production job.
Image first, talent second. The purists hate it.
Kevin Rowland is the exception. Kevin Rowland is always the exception.
Right from the beginning of his career, way back in the late 70s with the brassy smash Geno, the look of the band always seemed to take equal billing with the sound. Back then, the longshoreman look of On The Waterfront was the order of the day – pea coats, chunky knits, bovver boots and caps all in black. It remains a vivid Top of The Tops memory for any British man currently i-Podding his way through midlife crisis.
He didn’t always get it right, of course. That’s part of the Russian roulette fun of being a Dexys acolyte. His most famous look from the Come On Eileen period – can we call it gypsy chic? – was pure showbiz and the “men’s lingerie” of 1999’s much maligned My Beauty was something of a wild card. Both should be filed under Don’t Try This At Home Kids.
His misunderstood masterpiece from 1985, Don’t Stand Me Down, however, features the perfect synergy of the Geno days – great preppy look, outstanding sound.
The new look seems to hark back to the post-war era, all eight-piece caps, suits, knitwear and high-waisted pants. And the album is being hailed as a real return to form.
Telling, I think, that his finest music is made in conjunction with a look that dates from his own past – a heritage that is post-war, working class, born of immigrant stock. In common with that other brittle maverick of English song, Ray Davies, there is a certain feeling of “I just wasn’t made for these times” about Rowland.
It’s almost as if he needs to ground himself in the traditions of his background before he can let fly – or soar, as his new album title has it – to the artistic heights. His look is his armour, or his disguise, as if he’s trying to convince the folks back home that this is an act, a character he is playing, and the real Rowland keeps his (stylishly-booted) feet planted firmly on the ground. In the “costume” he also inherits the unsinkable confidence of the working class man of yore, dolled up in his pomp on a Saturday night. Few stylish creatures can beat the crisp pride of the working man in his Saturday best.
And few pop stars can come close to Kevin Rowland in full spate. Welcome back.
One Day I’m Going To Soar is out now.