A sticker affixed to promotional copies of Lou Reed’s new album cautions that some of it may not be suitable for airplay. No such warning adorns the equally censorable U.S. debut from Ian Dury, which the same label distributes. The reason may be that Dury serves as his own warning: one look at the cover pictures here and you’ll know you’d best be ready for anything.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to fully prepare for Dury, a Cockney-accented rocker whose musically accessible but lyrically idiosyncratic work seems destined to be widely misunderstood. On first listen, he appears to be jumping on the punk bandwagon. He also seems to be a classic misogynist, since his characters insult women at every turn.
But his characters are just that; lacing his stern surfaces with undercurrents of humor, Dury sketches vivid, fascinating images—but not role models. And when he steps out of character in “My Old Man” and the lovely “Sweet Gene Vincent,” he embraces a humanistic slant that sets him far apart from punk.
Dury isn’t for everyone, so listen well before you buy. But do listen.