To call the first album to bear the (now abbreviated) Dexys name since 1985’s Don’t Stand Me Down long-awaited is a massive understatement. Though it was initially poorly received, that last record has grown in stature to the point where serious fans regard it as Kevin Rowland’s ultimate work, a creative pinnacle that surpassed even the lauded previous two long-players with their chart-topping hits.
What went before is so far in the past, however, that it seems almost irrational to judge this new collection as the next chapter. Despite the presence of Dexys alumni trombonist Jim Paterson and keyboard player Mick Talbot, and familiar motifs (the articulate musings on national identity in Nowhere Is Home, the joyous upbeat soul of Free or Incapable Of Love), Rowland is for the most part painting on a blank canvas, a very different man to the tortured figure of half his lifetime ago.
He’s still an engagingly original and leftfield lyricist, presenting his words as much as conversations as structured melodies, be they saluting womanhood (She Got A Wiggle), searching for emotional or spiritual answers (Lost) or evocatively referencing generations past (Now). You may not find a new Geno or Come On Eileen to adopt as a lazy anthem, but you will find an idiosyncratic worldview, an intellect and curiosity rarely heard in four-minute songs, and some devastatingly powerful tunes that demand a commitment from the listener. It’s thinking person’s pop music, capable – as ever – of blowing the opposition out of the water.