Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Do It Yourself (1979)


  

Released May 1979

After the unique punk meets music hall winning debut that was "New Boots And Panties", this follow up saw Dury and The Blockheads very much getting into a white disco/funk mode, eschewing practically all the punk stylings of the previous album. I guess if there ever was such a thing as pub rock disco, or new wave disco, this was it. Apparently Dury was a nightmare to work with during the sessions for this album, success having gone to his head, legend would have it. Maybe it was the case because there is something indiscernable about the album that leaves it lacking the charm, wit and vibrant joie de vivre that its predecessor had. It just doesn't really do it for me in the way that "Panties" did. That is not to say it a bad album, though, it certainly has a few moments. It is probably pertinent to say, however, that Dury didn't produce any other albums of real note after this (although his fans would no doubt disagree), commercially there certainly weren't.

TRACK LISTING

1. Inbetweenies
2. Quiet
3. Don't Ask Me
4. Sink My Boats
5. Waiting For Your Taxi
6. This Is What We Find
7. Uneasy Sunny Day Hotsy Totsy
8. Mischief
9. Dance Of The Screamers
10. Lullaby For Franci/es                              

"Inbetweenies" has that quasi-disco/jazz funk piano coda that seemed to populate a lot of Dury's output at this time, married to Dury's music-hall, wry delivery. It was the album version of the hit singles "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and "Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3" (both of which are included on the deluxe edition of the album. It is a good track though, with excellent saxophone and bass too. "Quiet" continues down the same new wave-y disco groove road as well. A sort of prototype rap with Dury semi-speaking his diamond geezer lyrics about his small child, exhorting him to be quiet. The instrumentation, as always from The Blockheads, is excellent, a shuffling sort of funk with some madcap saxophone swirling around.

"Don't Ask Me" is another piece of urban white funk. It is perfectly listenable, but somehow, for me, the novelty of the first album doesn't quite repeat itself on this one, despite the quality backing. That is a little bit unfair, but much of the album ploughs the same furrow. "Sink My Boats" has vague punky hints in places, but there is still a solid funky guitar riff underpinning it and some disco synthesisers. "Waiting For Your Taxi" is a brooding, sonorous somewhat dirge-like grinder. "This Is What We Find" is a very Madness-esque number, even down Dury's Suggs-style vocal on the chorus. There is a good dubby bit in the middle too. By the way, the rear cover is also very Madness-inspired.


"Uneasy Sunny Day Hotsy Totsy" is just a bit of a mess, really, despite a bit of quirkiness. "Mischief" tries to recreate that "Blockheads" frantic atmosphere, but doesn't quite get there. The vocal is barely audible for a start, at times. "Dance Of The Screamers" has a perfect Chic-style disco rhythm with an intoxicating bass line. Lots of bands started putting this sort of thing out at the time, trying to get in on the disco thing without alienating their punk fanbase. The Jam's "Precious" is an example, and The Clash's "Magnificent Seven". To be fair to Dury, he was doing this in 1979, not 1981. It is one of the best tracks on the album, I have to say. It does use quite a bit of the "Rhythm Stick" piano and bass though. "Lullaby For Franci/es" starts with a ridiculously loud and incongruous brass intro before easing into a new wave white reggae beat. It is actually not a bad one to end on, slightly different to most of the others.

"What A Waste" was a great single and is included in the deluxe edition. Although this album is reasonable, none of it matches the three hit singles. There is nothing that sticks in your mind in the way that they do. I rarely return to this album, maybe I should do more, in fact I will resolve to do so.  It probably deserves it.

C+

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