My Beauty

The body of the corrupt cop sinks slowly into the mire of trash and slime...

The body of the corrupt cop sinks slowly into the mire of trash and slime. “He was some kind of a man…” intones Marlene Dietrich, “what does it matter what you say about people?” The close of Orson Welles‘ [I]Touch Of Evil[/I], it’s a plea for generosity of spirit, for recognition of mankind’s resilience in the face of doom.

“No matter what they say about me/ They can’t take my personal dignity”, sings [a]Kevin Rowland[/a] on his cover of ‘The Greatest Love Of All’. You hope he’s right, because this is no quiet plea, no everyday flaw. This is someone who still sends grown men starry-eyed and giddy, who has made his comeback amid satin, suspenders and no little mockery, who has chosen to bend his talent to some of the most overplayed, contempt-breeding songs on the planet. He’s down-scaled his search for the young soul rebels to a quest for his own place in the world, producing a record that’s poignantly addictive, troubled and troubling.

However you see it, the fact remains this is a collection of songs that the semi-mythical Dexys Midnight Runners frontman claims helped him regain his sense of self after years of substance abuse and mental dereliction. Never mind that tunes like ‘The Long And Winding Road’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ are more often linked with pushing people over the edge in nasty lift muzak incidents, the whole concept is akin to rifling through the minutes of a self-help circle. Rowland still inspires the sort of goodwill that could be banked in offshore accounts, and nobody would doubt his right to make this record. Whether it should be released for widespread consumption is another matter. The unease just grows.

Sure, he often sings beautifully, even making the ghastly Jonathan Livingston Seagull nonsense of ‘The Greatest Love Of All’ perversely brilliant in a ‘Hey! Let’s do the show right here!’ kind of way. Fleeting moments glint with the legendary steel; the scared muttering that starts the record, the melodic coughing on ‘Daydream Believer’, the sudden vocal clutch at the end of ‘Concrete And Clay’ – yet unless you have a Val Doonican fixation, this LP could chill the fiercest ardour.

Never meet your heroes, runs the advice, for they can only disappoint you. Never patronise them, either, for both sides deserve better. Whether noble failure or tragic relic, ‘My Beauty’ is the sound of a collapsing perspective, a judgement shattering.

But what does it matter what you say about people? [a]Kevin Rowland[/a]. He’s some kind of a man.