Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'Don’t Stand Me Down' by Dexys Midnight Runners.
An album can occasionally ask too much of a listener, begging at times to find the artistic meaning within a song cycle. Then again, another view is that albums such as ‘Dont Stand Me Down’ by Dexys Midnight Runners simply exist, transcending all previous work while being slightly out of step with everything else released in the same era.
The long-awaited follow up to the early '80s earworm Come On Eileen never fully arrived - instead Kevin Rowland took three years to record and release an album. Instead of jumping on that success and riding a wave with more catchy singles, it would appear that the band slammed all those doors and nailed them shut, deciding to take us on a journey into the core of blue-eyed soul.
Released in September 1985, ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ is unusual, with an even balance of both good and bad points evident throughout the recording. As follow-ups go, it contains none of the bohemian aspects which ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ contained.
The front cover shows the extent of the transformation - gone are the dungarees and rags, replaced with Saville Row suits, massive amounts of hair product and absolutely no stubble. In fact Dexys could easily be mistaken for bankers or solicitors and not a new wave rock band. But here we get to the bones of the album and how the tracks stack up.
An Obscure Flicker, is a foot-stomper; one of those tracks that glides effortlessly out of the speakers, and as it fades, we get to the more unusual aspect of studio chatter. The enjoyable but time-heavy This Is What She's Like was the one and only single release (in a much edited form), which incidentally got a release two months after the album and failed to chart for that very reason.
An idea of studio talk separating the first two tracks can be hard to understand in the context of keeping an album free flowing. The attitude of pop albums' "don't bore us get to the chorus” is not necessarily the direction of every album - music is an art form, and perhaps this studio chatter adds to the concept of an album and the creation of that art.
A nostalgic theme is clearly evident with the beautiful Knowledge Of Beauty. With a nod to Lou Reed and Satellite Of Love, the song is magnificent and O'Hara's violin is hypnotic and captivating. Throughout the record, tributes are paid to artists of inspiration. On One Of Those Things you can hear an almost complete lift of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, and indeed on later issues Zevon received a co-writer credit.
The greatest success of 'Don’t Stand Me Down' was that it did actually get released - the record company had no faith in a Dexys album that did not contain a hit single, or what's more, a collection of hit singles. Very little was done in the way of promotion, by Kevin Rowland or the record company, and the band dissolved soon after.
In the years after the release it gained greater acclaim. Sometimes an album may seem out of place in the era that it is released, but that may not be a bad thing - some albums can be like wine, you have to open them and let them breathe a while before you can taste the true beauty.
The impact of 'Don’t Stand Me Down' is not in its commercial appeal at the time of release, but more so in the diversity it displays, along with the courage and belief in the musicians who laboured in its creation. Dexys third is timeless in its appeal and outstanding in its art.