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5 February 2013

Ian Dury & the Blockheads - 'Do It Yourself' (Stiff/Epic)

What sense can we make of Ian Dury? The currents of popular music in Britain are always unsteady, and Dury's run of records around the time of punk are hard to place. Compared to Sex Pistols, the Clash, or Sham 69, this is a whole different beast, yet there's something still ragged and attitudinal going on here. 'Inbetweenies', the opening cut, sounds almost like a joke; it, like the rest of Do It Yourself has a crisp, tight beat that is almost disco-like; I guess it would situate Dury closer to New Wave, though there's more of a pub-rock edge with the guitars. In some cases he feels like a working class British James Brown - not that there's much soul, but that there's driving, repetitive rhythms over which Dury sounds like he is free-associating. And his vocals are nothing like Brown or any conventional singer - his Englishness is almost exaggerated, someone off-key, and weirdly charming. I don't know why I feel such a need to categorise everything, particularly Dury, who is maybe best viewed as an anomaly of the times, albeit a fairly normal-sounding one. Can't I just enjoy something as good rock music? When the beat starts to fall away, as on 'Sink My Boats', I like the direction - there's more honesty and personality on display. 'This Is What We Find' is the album's best song, even though it sounds like Madness. I used to have his first album but it disappeared somewhere over the years; I have no real understanding of what Dury did after this, but according to Wikipedia he died in 2000. But Do It Yourself - despite the title, it's a polished affair - I wonder if this was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Desperate Bicycles, etc also happening at the same time? Or maybe those weren't even on Dury's radar. 

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