Dexys: One Day I'm Going to Soar

Dexys' first album in 27 years highlights the mercurial talents of Kevin Rowland and bandmates on this suburb album of love, loathing and confession.


One Day I'm Going to Soar

Label: Slimstyle
US Release Date: 2013-09-03
UK Release Date: 2012-06-12

Ok, let me put this straight out there. Dexys, Dexys Midnight Runners and even Dexy’s Midnight Runners as the early handmade band posters named them, are one of the greatest groups to emerge from the United Kingdom and in Kevin Rowland they have one of the most intelligent songwriters and charismatic frontmen that ever graced a stage. Whilst know as a perfectionist, and a hard task master, Rowland has always surrounded himself with the tightest, hardest and most skilful musicians, ensuring his lyrical (and aesthetic) aspirations have always been matched from Big Jim Patterson to Kevin Archer to Pete Williams to Helen O’Hara to Mick Talbot; these are no mere stooges to Rowland’s genius and it’s good to say a number feature on the new album.

It’s hard to image say, “There There My Dear” from debut lp Searching For The Young Soul Rebels without the brilliant brass section of Geoffrey ‘Jeff’ Blythe, saxophone, Steve ‘Babyface’ Spooner, alto saxophone and ‘Big’ Jim Patterson, trombone (even the nicknames are redolent of the mighty Stax and Muscle Shoals and other soul luminaries that has always been a feature of Dexys work). Later albums such as the criminally underrated but absolutely incredible Don’t Stand Me Down featured virtuoso violin player Helen O’Hara, star of the monster hit “Come On Eileen”, another brilliant song that became something of an albatross for Rowland; immediately after the success of the song he completely changed the look and musical direction of Dexys which resulted in the release of the aforementioned Don’t Stand Me Down and perhaps explains the critics not really getting their head round ‘our Kev’s disregard for fame and fortune.

Part of Rowland’s obsessive drive for perfection, his dedication to his craft and his sometimes dictatorial behaviour to band members, can perhaps be attributed to his Irish Catholic background. A curse and a blessing that all Irish Catholics of a certain age carry around with us. For ours is a history of migration, of immigration, of racism, ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ ran the signs in England. The Irish built the roads, dug the canals and yet we were the ‘thick micks’, the drinkers and brawlers and then, of course, we were all terrorists.

It’s hard to imagine now, as everyone clamours to find some Irishness in them, some link to the Emerald Isle no matter how small, that being Irish and Catholic in the UK in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s was tough. You had to be hard and stand your ground. You had to assert your identity. You had to give as good as you got. And this, I think, is what Rowland has always been about. Proud of his identity and heritage, never taking a step backwards and never being told what to do or how he should behave.

But he is also incredibly guilt ridden and prone to opening up his heart for inspection, as well as introspection, in his music. A trait that comes to fore on the magnificent One Day I’m Going to Soar Dexys’ (they’ve dropped the Midnight Runners part) first album for 27 years.

This is to all intents and purposes a suite of songs centered on Rowland’s central narrator/character which one has to assume is Rowland himself. It deals with issues of family, notions of Irishness, love and loathing, lust and loss and an eventual public confession. As he says in the suburb album closer “It’s O.K. John Joe”, “And I don’t show much of myself in life / But, in my music I tend to put it all in / It’s like I got a need to get it all out of me / I can’t be what anybody wants me to be.”

One Day I Will Soar opens with a trio of songs: “Now” about his parents and his “ … secret urge to fly” and the possibilities of life. “Lost” sees Rowland reminiscing about his childhood days and the confusion we all face of growing up, whilst “Me” seems to be about his inner fight to be strong in the face of doubt as a young adult, a need to be accepted but on his terms? The middle section turns to tales of the heart (and other human appendages) as the inspired Madeleine Hyland makes an appearance as the, ultimately doomed, love interest and foil for Rowland’s inability to commit to anything other than to himself.

We go from the foreplay of “She Got a Wiggle” to infatuation on “You” and “I’m Thinking of You” to the brilliant drama of “I’m Always Going to Love You”. Well for the first two minutes or so of the song before, Kevin suddenly announces, actually I won’t always love you to which Madeleine screams, swears and storms off before taunting him for being “incapable of love” to which he has no defence, readily agreeing to her analysis of him. There is great interplay between the two over these tracks which provides the album with a terrific second act.

The third and final act sees Rowland in a more conciliatory and reflective mode. On the Bowie sounding “Sound and Vision” and “Nowhere is Home”, Rowland returns to the theme of his roots and his continuing search for an identity he can call his own, he seems lost and yet I’ve never heard him sound more sure of himself in any of his earlier music. “Free” is more uplifting wherein Rowland seems to be pumping himself up ready to go and find himself to be “ … the man I’m meant to be”.

Closer “It’s O.K. John Joe” is a piano led lament as Rowland enters into a confessional monologue, battling with himself, asking questions but never really finding the answer he seeks. It is as if the Irish Catholic has forgone the intimacy of the confessional box and priest and is instead asking us, the listener, to forgive him for his sins and weaknesses. Well Kevin, my absolution is that you continue writing such great songs.

I said at the top of this review that for me Dexys are one of the most important bands from the UK. One Day I’m Going To Soar merely reinforces that belief. Whether the album brings them a whole new generation of followers is doubtful. But if you only know them through “Come on Eileen” then I urge and implore you, give this a listen and then work backwards through the rest of their catalogue. You’ll be rewarded.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.