Thoughts Before Listening
Things I knew about Dexys Midnight Runners prior to writing this:
- They’re from the UK – England, to be specific, although my brain really wants them to be from Ireland.
- Their hit was fun and folksy, with lots of strings.
- There isn’t an apostrophe in Dexys, which makes me twitch.
Things I know about Dexys Midnight Runners now that I’ve done a bit of research:
- Too-Rye-Ay has a string section and a horn section. I have high hopes.
- The word Dexys is derived from Dexedrine, which is essentially Speed (the drug, not the movie). Midnight Runners indeed.
I didn’t know they had a horn section before this – I’m psyched now. To the headphones!
Everyone knows “Come On Eileen”. Everybody. I bet you could go into the deepest darkest forests of the Amazon and hum a few bars and within a few minutes you’ll have a party.
This is our first foray into a new decade, and I’m excited about that. I love the music of the 80’s. Check that – I love the music that I listened to in the 80’s, which admittedly were only the hits. The rest that didn’t survive… well, this is a good chance for us to really put our little experiment to the test.
Other Songs of Note
The icing on the cake
“The Celtic Soul Brothers (More Please)” – 8 points
Scott (5 points)
This one comes right at you – it is punchy and dynamic. The strings are right there in the front. I can’t hear the horns, but the strings are prominent. This doesn’t really sound like anything else I can think of. I say this very positively – so much of music tends towards homogeneity that it’s delightful to hear something different, as long as it is as well executed as this is.
Weh-Ming (3 points)
It reminds me of a Maritime kitchen band. I don’t have a great sense of what they’re saying most of the time – thankfully there are lyrics. I liked this song. I am going to start off with a strong 3 points for this track, and we’ll see where the rest of the album goes.
“Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” – 7 points
WEh-Ming (4 points)
I like this song. It sounds like what you’d expect this kind of song to sound like from the 80’s if that makes any sense at all. If you’d told me that he was singing “I’m in heaven”, I would have been just as surprised as I was when I read the lyrics.
Scott (3 points)
Another one with fantastic string / horn interplay. It’s actually kind of neat to have rock music with the guitar so downplayed in the mix. I mean, I know it’s there (the credits tell me so) but I’m not sure I can hear it at all. Bass? Lots and lots of bass. Banjo sometimes? Yes. Guitar? I don’t hear it. I think this song is actually the horn section highlight for me.
“All in All (This One Last Wild Waltz)” – 6 points
Scott (4 points)
One two three, one two three, one two three. Yep, it’s a waltz. I really enjoy the female backing vocals in this one, along with the violin/banjo. Oh no. The lead vocals remind me of half of The Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie) and now that’s all I can hear.
Weh-Ming (2 points)
I like the weirdness of this song and his voice (which I can sort of understand better here). Someone who knows music better than me can tell if this is actually a waltz, but going back to my 8 AM Movement class in university, it has the beat of a waltz. This is a closing time song.
“Let’s Make This Precious” – 3 points
Scott (2 points)
There are the horns! Strings and horns! And barely intelligible singing! You don’t hear strings and horns playing off of each other very often in music, and I really enjoy it. A flute outro! Special shout out to the very capable bassline that holds this whole thing together. The song even calls out guitars as “too noisy and crude.” I should have taken this as a sign that electric guitar would be nowhere to be found.
Weh-Ming (1 points)
I liked the strings and the horns are crazy in this, but it didn’t make me as happy as the first track.
What we would put on our personal mixtapes
Scott (1 point)
Lovely message about listening to and respecting the elderly – learning from their wisdom. I really enjoy the violin line in this one. Very methodical song, with its progression and various instrument parts, and it works very well. Cough cough. Get off of my lawn!
You know how much I like when two tracks lead into each other, and while this isn’t seamless it was a nice transition.
This is a morality song – we don’t treat our elders very well. The message is good along with a good riff, but it’s a little heavy handed and slow for my liking. But then again, I’m not old so the song isn’t directed to me. It’s directed to old people who like slow songs that pander to them… Cough cough Scott. Old people, yeesh.
The end of the song tricks you into thinking that it’s the start of the next song? I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because old people forget what they’re listening to?
I’ll be honest – It took a minute to adapt to this album. I’m used to rock music where horns and strings are the supporting players, while the guitar (and even keyboards) take center stage on the melodies. This is, well, different. There’s guitar on this album – I know this because the credits tell me so. If they didn’t, I’m not sure I would have known. The strings and horns are the primary melody makers here, with banjo, organ, accordion, and even flute (!) helping out. There’s a great rhythm section laying down the backbone of most songs – a traditional electric bass player and drummer doing what one would expect.
With this in mind, I went through a couple phases of listening to Too-Rye-Ay:
- Oh neat, horns and strings!
- Hey, what’s the deal, where are the guitars?
- I’m not sure I can do this.
- Oh, the horns and strings are filling in for the guitars. Interesting.
- I’ve fully come to terms with this divergence from standard band structure, and I’m down with it.
At the end of this journey, getting five songs that I enjoyed wasn’t too difficult. It’s a little odd that it ended up being the first five songs on the album. I’m thinking these songs have the most traditional structure – once you get into the back half of the album, things get a little more experimental and non-standard.
This is the sort of album I love to discover – I’d never likely have listened to more than the hit without this exercise. But because of it, I’ve got a bunch of songs now that I had never heard that I can pull out when the mood strikes me. Too-Rye-Ay, indeed.
Overall, I liked the album. It was completely different than I anticipated – I had no idea they were not from the US. I think the first half of the album is better than the second before finishing with “Come On Eileen”.
Also, now that I understand why I had so much trouble understanding the words to “Come On Eileen” – roughly 80% of the entire album is unintelligible to me. But it’s entertaining gibberish!
Yeah But What Else
Down the Rabbit Hole (Additional listening inspired by this week’s review.)
Dexys Midnight Runners – “Geno” – Pre-Too-Rye-Ay Dexys. Listening to how prominent the horns are in this one, it’s easy to see why they weren’t super-pleased when the strings were brought in and given such high billing.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” – American vs. British. Guitar driven vs. virtually no guitar. This song came to mind a couple times through listening – I think it’s just because both use their wailing voices as instruments. I can see how it wouldn’t be everyone’s jam, but this one gets its hooks into my brain in a powerful way.
Flight of the Conchords – “Robots” – About as far from Dexys as it gets, but I mentioned them due to Bret McKenzie’s vocal similarities to Dexys’s lead singer. This song cracks me up every time.
Weird Al has never done a parody of Dexys Midnight Runners. It could have been, as Too Rye Ay came out in 1982 and Weird Al’s first album came out in 1983. But at 4:47 long, it’s 50% longer than the longest song on his debut album.
I’d be tempted to cut “Stop Draggin’ My Car Around”, but it is the only Tom Petty parody he’s done and that would be a shame. It could also be argued to cut “Ricky”, but that was also his first music video ever and Tress MacNeille is in it too. No, you can’t cut any of the parodies out, they have to stay.
Which only leaves his originals. While I love them, some of them aren’t awesome. “Gotta Boogie” is, I believe, the weakest original Al song ever – even though I loved dancing around as a kid pretending to have a boogie on my finger… Yes, I was definitely pretending…
I’ve done the math, and the closest you can get to the 4:47 of “Come On Eileen” is to cut both “Such a Groovy Guy” and “Mr Frump in the Iron Lung”. And while many people may say that losing “Such a Groovy Guy” is not a huge loss, there is no way that I can fathom a world in which “Mr Frump in the Iron Lung” does not exist.