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Album Reviews No. 6: Dexy's Midnight Runners
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The Independent Online
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6. Dexy's Midnight Runners:

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

Staring out from the front is a teenage boy photographed on the streets of Britain's late 1960s or early 1970s, fresh off a bus with a battered suitcase and the kind of overcoat that could only conceal a Wagon Wheel, a sweaty tangerine and and a ball of snotty bog paper. Reluctant school tripper? Evacuee? Borstal or Barnado boy? Who knows? The point is that this, for Kevin Rowland's mythic Young Soul Rebels, is where it starts. Crap haircut, clothes your mum might have bought for you and the kind of defiant attitude that's more about brooding in the row next to the slow kid with the smell of puke on his shorts than causing mayhem in the back of the coach with a United scarf tied to your wrist.

Soul Rebels, we are taught, are fit, thoughtful, vengeful and proudly provincial, with only a Behan or a Sillitoe for company. This is Kes with a Stax soundtrack. Not middle class or southern, and definitely not (as the pop wars of the time had it) rockist. For soft grammar school educated boys with unread Penguin Modern Classics on the shelf it was irresistible.

The rest of the package, dominated by a doctored lyric sheet and a How We Met tale that would later give someone the idea for The Commitments, is as spare in its punk simplicity as the first Clash record. The notion of Dexy's as a gang barely outlasted the next couple of singles and, by the time they had switched labels and were playing the Old Vic, the magic had gone. Kevin Rowland, seemingly unhappy with band and audience alike, called on us to punish our bodies and heal our souls while his crack horn section sawed uneasily on their newly acquired cellos.

IAN BLACKABY

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