#MoNM Day 17: Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
The title of Dexys Midnight Runners’ debut says it all: this isn’t just an album, it’s a call to arms. Sweet and sour homemade soul, with excessively fussy vocals and punchy-but-never-quite-right horns, the album courts its rebels through sheer passion and sincerity – it’s not asking for political upheaval, just a bit of earnestness. Which makes sense coming out of urban England in the late 1970s. If you’re going to react to the punk rock nihilism of the Pistols (presented as just another part of the radio dial in Young Soul Rebels’ intro), Stax soul is as good a thing as any to latch on to.
It’d take another album for Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland to think of adding “Celtic” to his stew of punk spirit, New Wave vocal tics and soul arrangements (and, on “Love Part One”, heartfelt spoken-word poetry), but even if he’d never given the world the too-rah-loo-rahs and fiddles of “Come On Eileen,” Rowland would likely have a cult following today; maybe even a bigger one than now, if he wasn’t fighting the one-hit-wonder stigma. Because Searching for the Young Soul Rebels is soul music for those who bought into punk’s egalitarianism but not its hopelessness, and Rowland isn’t just wearing his heart on his sleeve here, he’s squeezing every last drop out of it.