New Boots and Panties, by Ian Dury
Suggested by Bryan Connolly
Ian Dury has repeatedly hit me with his rhythm stick. He’s explained to me the reasons why he’s so cheerful on numerous occasions. He’s extolled the virtues of sex, and of drugs, and also of rock and / or roll. But that’s the extent of our relationship before today.
After listening through New Boots and Panties, I’m happy for it to remain that way.
With anti-establishment credentials firmly in place, it’s surprising to me that the songs on this debut album reflect a number of styles, from straight punk, to rock, to music hall and more. That doesn’t matter, of course, because the brutal truth is that no one gives a toss about the music. It’s all about the lyrics. Dury doesn’t really sing, after all… he recites.
Dury is often lauded as one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. On the face of it, his strong vernacular and concentration on common life should be right up my street (more stories about binmen, people!), but there’s something seedy here that just rubs me up the wrong way. They are well-crafted, but not aspirational or uplifting. It’s all very cheeky, seaside postcard two-fat-ladies, Bennie Hill or Ivor Biggun, but with an undertone that’s much darker. A murky slice of a life I’d rather not see.
Look, I know that it’s meant to be shocking, and that of its time it was likely ground-breaking and earth-shaking and all that jazz. I just feel it’s unpleasant, and grubby. Songs like Plaistow Patricia, which chronicles the desperate life of a pregnant fifteen-year-old drug addict, who’s having an affair with a “Chinese Charlie Chan”, just make me feel sad. Although I did laugh out loud at the song’s opening line.
My favourite song is probably Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, but as that wasn’t on the album’s initial release I feel it’s cheating. Instead, I’ll go for Blockheads, a pure punk track with a driven screaming vocal with, for my money, the best lyrics on the album. “You must have seen parties of Blockheads, with blotched and lagered skin” … very evocative.
It may be a classic, but to me it feels dated, mucky, and questionable. It does feel like sacrilege, but I can only give this 3/10, and that’s with an extra point for the humorously gratuitous burst of swearing. I’ll stick to the singles. If you’re a fan, I apologise. Please don’t hit me with your… well, you get the idea.