Upon first hearing, the 27-year gap between One Day I’m Going to Soar and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ third album, the vainglorious masterpiece Don’t Stand Me Down, seems inexplicable, verging on outrageous. Dexys’ — they’re no longer Midnight Runners — signature pugnacious soul sound has aged not one second in that interminable interregnum. Kevin Rowland’s brooding, wounded voice and deadpan timing are wearied not even slightly by the passing of nearly three decades. And he’s still singing about the same things: love, identity and the complexities of committing to either.
Subtly and insidiously, however, the passing of all that time emerges as the anchoring theme of One Day I’m Going to Soar. When Rowland was asking those big questions in his 20s and 30s, he sounded impatient, but certain enough that he’d figure it all out eventually. Now pushing 60, he’s confronting the likelihood that there are no answers. “I can’t be what anybody wants me to be,” he mumbles on the album’s beautiful, mournful centerpiece, “It’s OK John Joe.” “I’m only learning to operate in this world.”
Though this incarnation of Dexys includes a few veterans of previous lineups — Mick Talbot, Pete Williams, Jim Paterson — Rowland’s principal foil is actor/singer Madeleine Hyland. She duets — and, in truth, slightly overdoes it, especially on “Incapable Of Love” — on a suite of several ballads chronicling a love affair from ignition to combustion to implosion. They’re heartbreaking in both style and content, Rowland reacting to Hyland’s betrayed naivete with the here-we-go-again fatigue of someone who has ridden this merry-go-round too often. “I walked into this part without thinking,” he mutters on “I’m Always Going to Love You.” As a summary of the human condition, this is a difficult line to top.