May 2008 T.M.I. blog post.
It shouldn’t matter but it does – band members looking like they’ve just been assaulted, and hurled in a cellar – trilbys at an angle mistakenly identified as ‘rakish’ or letting their skintights sag, topped with a New Era and token Westwood piece is the new nondescript. This isn’t a call for all groups to give themselves an extreme brand identity like Devo or The Residents but the visual oomph has been sapped by the fresh tide of aspiring new wave, dammit. Where’s the risk-takers?
And here, it’s worth crudely welding a tribute to Kevin Rowland, seeing as mad kids jacked his vocal style lately. Forget the peak of his fearlessness where he cross-dressed and covered ‘The Greatest Love Of All’ if you like, but you can’t front on the Dexy’s mark one longshoreman meets Mean Streets denim, leather and woolen hat ensemble that indicated a preoccupation with well-constructed Americana before men on forums talked about selvedge as if it cured cancer and held the cure to all life’s secrets. Dexy’s also knew the purity of the plain white tee and marl athletic wear too, in line with their unadulterated, unspoilt intensity.
Beyond these aesthetics was the tightly structured and ultra-disciplined performance, and sing-song that never bowed to any vocal limitations, giving Chuck Wood’s ‘7 Days (Is) Too Long’ a deadpan reworking, complete with Wolverhampton twang to the opening plea hit hard without any try-hard soul boy cloning.
Moodily following a Zappa-esque path of ditching each successful formula in favour of a new look and sound meant Romany styling around the time of a succesful wedding reception standard, it’s look number 5 that gets the heaviest props over here – the Brooks Brothers/Ivy League era, continuing the same lineage of obsessing over sartorial American details, but smartening up to an extreme – not a million miles away from the current shift from high fiving over Annabel Chong-style aesthetically displeasing multiple brand gangbangs over an XL Gildan to pretending to like Monocle and Fantastic Man.
Seeing as it was 1985, they didn’t get praise – they just got accused of looking like double glazing salespeople. The little details were ignored. Cloned conservative looks were on the way. Kevin’s unwillingness to release singles from ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ is deeply admirable, especially in today’s era where two albums qualifies for an seasonal ‘The Best Of…’ but probably financial ruinous. You’ve got to give that kind of purity and vision a nod though – especially with a record like ‘This Is What She’s Like.’
Melding Irish folk instrumentation with a high-concept call and response theme, a vocal performance that incorporates a yodelling howl of self-expression and a mid-song spoken word section that rivals Ghost and Jada’s shirt removing male bonding for quotability:
“Bill, you know the newly wealthy peasants Y’know with their home bars, y’know and the hi-fis and all that stuff? Well you know how they use words like ‘fabulous’ and ‘super’ in each sentence they spit out? Well I don’t really like these scumbags.”
It sure beats a three minute spiky indie exercise or an Alexa Chung DJ set. Just managing to include such bile into a song of total love, by breaking down everything that his girlfriend isn’t, is an innovative touch that pays dividends. Paired with the snappy outfits and commanding knowledge of how important a group uniform can be, this should have set standards but just remains mired in cultdom. Even on their recent comeback, the new look was themed on Pinky and company in ‘Brighton Rock’. Forget us mere peasants – Like Kevin and company, musicians still have a duty to look fucking brilliant.