The Feminine Divine
The first album of original music by Dexys in eleven years is a peculiar and somewhat insubstantial one.
As with ‘One Day I’m Going to Soar’ (2012), ‘The Feminine Divine’ has a narrative. We start in a familiar place, with Kevin Rowland’s insecurities, after the blustering machismo of ‘The One That Loves You’ (a song written back in 1991), Kev starts to question himself. ‘It’s Alright Kevin’ is an update of ‘Manhood’ (there’s a recording from 2003 but the song’s older than that). ‘I’m Going To Get Free’ is the highpoint of this cycle of songs as Kev shows his demons to the door (again). Then, after the risible lyrics of ‘I’m Coming Home’ ('I tried to be what I ought to be and I also tried domesticity') and a chorus of sub - football anthem banality, the story swerves in a different direction.
The title track follows Rowland’s train of thought about his poor treatment of women in the past and how he's now seen the error of his ways. Thanks, Kev. But, his apology to us seems a little distorted, a little too much, as he now sees women as divine creatures to be worshipped 'as superstars, the goddesses on earth.' I have trouble with this. I'm glad that he's changing his ways, but Kev, I’m just content to be your equal - I am as real, as dysfunctional and have as many bad habits as everyone else. I am not, and never will be, a 'goddess'. We are not 'goddesses'. The character on the front sleeve of the album may be a goddess (apparently inspired by Pele, the Goddess of the Volcano – you do know goddesses are fictitious don’t you Kev?), but that is not us. I just wanted to make that clear.
When he gets to the 'it's such an honour, such a thrill to see her love someone that's not me' line, I feel a slight discomfort at some of his over sharing (like Momus on ‘Amongst Women Only’ but that queasiness was intentional.) Then 'Goddess Rules’ gives out far too much information. Above the sleazy Prince-esque groove, Kev is conversing with his goddess (played by Claudia Chopek). 'You're going to buy me sexy lingerie, you're going to help me to get ready when I'm going out...' she says, to which Kev can only offer his 'OK'. It's not that I'm too prudish to hear of Rowland's submissive masochist side, it’s just that it’s just so insubstantial, it’s a conversation and it should at least go somewhere (yes, I know it’s prelude to the next number, but still), I’m reminded of Prince’s monologue at the end of the album version of ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ – but that was part of something much larger.
I'm also aware that Kevin Rowland is a 69-year-old man and, just like those films made by that film director/actor whom we try not to talk about, his love interest is portrayed by someone who is much, much younger than him - a fact that becomes awkwardly clear in the video for the single 'My Submission' (the clue is in the title) where he is also on his knees and praying to his dominating goddess (not Chopek this time). Kev, this just feels wrong. Although the album's closer 'Dance With Me' is less embarrassing, we’re again treated to a scenario where very little is happening. He wants his goddess to dance with him before she goes out (without him, we assume), he reflects on his adoration for her, for her beauty and, well, that's it. It's a disappointing end.
Part of me is willing to accept that 'The Feminine Divine' may one day be recognized as a classic, much in the same way that 'Don't Stand Me Down' and 'My Beauty' did decades after their initial releases. I've admired Kevin Rowland long enough to realise that confounding expectations, and baffling the audience is just a thing that he does. And that, as with those aforementioned albums, we may eventually catch up with him. Maybe I will find that depth in the music that I’m searching for. Maybe, but not now.