Ian Dury's primary appeal lies in his lyrics, which are remarkably clever sketches of British life delivered with a wry wit. Since Dury's accent is thick and his language dense with local slang, much of these pleasures aren't discernible to casual listeners, leaving the music to stand on its own merits. On his debut album, New Boots and Panties!!, Dury's music is at its best, and even that is a bizarrely uneven fusion of pub rock, punk rock, and disco. Still, Dury's off-kilter charm and irrepressible energy make the album gel, with the disco pulse of "Wake Up and Make Love With Me" making perfect sense next to the gentle tribute "Sweet Gene Vincent," the roaring punk of "Blockheads," and the revamped music hall of "Billericay Dickie" and "My Old Man".
It’s a wonderful irony that the two lyricists who most embodied punk’s libertarian role in helping banish the last vestiges of straight-laced Victorian values in the mid-70s were the two who most resembled a Dickensian nightmare. Johnny Rotten and Ian Dury both sought release from a social system designed to keep working class oiks like them in their place, and although one approached the task through head-on confrontation and the other with art school nuance, the message was the same: Think For Yourself.
It's not a surprise that professional athletes occasionally make records: back in the late '70s, Denver Broncos running back Jon Keyworth made a terrible soft rock album called Keys during the team's brief pre-John Elway heyday, and during their 2004 World Series season both pitcher Bronson Arroyo and general manager Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox were gigging around town with their own bands. However, there are two big surprises about the debut album from Ian Allen, a minor journeyman player for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Arizona Cardinals: rather than the usual lame jock-rock, this is mellow, loungey downtempo electronica. Also, it's really quite good! Allen's tastes run toward skittering drum machines and house beats, but there's also a languid, jazzy quality to most of Nova's Lounge, and that tension keeps the record from drifting too far into shapeless ambience. Allen is a canny synthesist who doesn't stick with one set of influences for very long, preferring to layer a variety of sounds and beats into an enjoyable whole.