Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

The Feminine Divine holds enough of Dexy's unique brilliance

"The Feminine Divine"

Release date: 28 July 2023
Dexys - The Feminine Divine cover
26 July 2023, 09:00 Written by Simon Heavisides

Whether they’d be another Dexys album seemed in the balance after 2016’s covers record, Let the Record Show.

Describing himself as happy, “generally,” with it, Kevin Rowland was worn down by the business aspects and spent time over the intervening years away from music, including a stay in Thailand getting his head straight.

But time apparently heals and the fabled ‘burning’ returned, giving us The Feminine Divine on which Kevin continues his soul searching with the focus moving to the male-female axis and his relationship with his own masculinity. This reckoning with his past has been a long time coming. It’s a Kevin we’re used to, with a series of songs sounding like an extended therapy session, but here the weight of the concept threatens to become too much for the music to support and, crucially, how much you relate will vary.

Reassuringly, opener “The One That Loves You” is a classic, brash and brassy, Philly-soul style Dexys stomper. Interestingly it’s one of four songs in a row written with Dexys foundation stone Big Jim Patterson, some dating back as far as the early 90s, a chemically hazy period when the band made steps towards a return that never really got off the ground. It makes for a good first half even if the production is a little airless and ultra-programmed.

But as we proceed doubts set in.

Side two in particular may test your mileage for hearing Kevin being very literal about his relationship with women, so much so that the squelchy funk of “Goddess Rules,” is entirely a male-female dialogue on the subject. It doesn’t always quite work and teeters into cringe-inducing territory more than once. Equally the following piano ballad, “My Submission” is painfully, err, ‘submissive’ concluding, “I will be your pet / To do with as you will.”

These later songs move beyond the more musically familiar side one, often with synths to the fore. It’s not easy stuff to digest at times, the slinky soul groove of the title track feels painfully close to self-flagellation. Still, the honesty and clarity is to be respected, even if it’s not always a comfortable listen.

All this means The Feminine Divine can’t match those first three deathless classic albums and falls just below the convincing return that was One Day I’m Going to Soar. Still, there’s enough of their unique brilliance on display to make this a qualified victory.

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