Song Of The Day 9/21/2013: Dexy's Midnight Runners - "This Is What She's Like"

In the U.S. Dexy's Midnight Runners are perhaps the epitome of the phrase "one-hit wonder." In the U.K. they actually had nine Top 40 hits, but over here "Come On Eileen" was all she wrote. The pressure to follow that song and the album it came from, Too-Rye-Ay, apparently did not register with Kevin Rowland, since he took three years to come up with a new record. When it came it was called Don't Stand Me Down. The change was most obviously displayed on the cover, as members of the band replaced their quickly stereotyped rural peasant look with three-piece business suits and sensible shoes.

The record itself was utterly unmarketable. For awhile Rowland refused to release anything from it as a single, and there's good reason for that. There's a lot of talking on the record. Not monologues, not spoken-word. Just mundane, conversant talking, especially on today's song. One song, "Reminisce Part Two," has Kevin talking about how he and a past girlfriend had a difference about what song they were going to "adopt." ("She wanted 'I'll Say Forever My Love' by Jimmy Ruffin. I wanted it to be 'Lola' by the Kinks.") Another song is just Kevin semi-rapping over a riff he lifted (admittedly, and later with proper compensation) from Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." People and critics were baffled and Don't Stand Me Down tanked, even in England. That was the last we'd hear from Dexys Midnight Runners until just last year.

Knowing the convoluted wiring in my head, I bet I don't have to tell you that I kind of love Don't Stand Me Down. Removed from the flame-out of its failure, many critics in the business of pumping post-mortems now admit that, as weird as it is, there's something about it that's fascinating. Take this song, "This Is What She's Like," which Rowland eventually allowed to become a single in an "excerpted" version (video below). But listen to the full 12-plus-minute version, the main body of which starts out with this inscrutable lyric: "Well, you know the kind of people that put creases in their old Levis?/The type that use expressions like 'tongue in cheek'?/I don't like these people." With an opening like that (which I had to look up), I'll follow you anywhere.

It sounds like what Scott Walker might have tried had he decided in favor of gaiety rather than horror in his later work, or somebody delivering Chinese food in the middle of a Van Morrison session in 1974. It's Joycean soul. Can I call it Joycean soul? Never mind, I just did.

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