Prince of Tears
Baxer Dury returns with his fifth long-player, Prince of Tears, where he further establishes the unique blend of poetic character vignettes over minimalist indie French-pop that he first demonstrated on 2011’s Happy Soup. Though he will always be somewhat overshadowed by his musical heritage (he is the son of the late Ian Dury), by this record we find that Baxter has well and truly carved out his own niche on the musical landscape.
Opening track and lead single Miami is a slice of minimalist funk and dirty sleaze bought to life by Baxter’s inspired vocabulary and menacing delivery. Lines such as “I’m the turgid fucked up lol’ goat pissing on your fucking hill,” make Baxter sound like a right proper East-London gangster, while the use of a chanteuse, (provided by regular band-member Madeline Hart), restrains the song from any overt masculinity. Hart is effectively used on most tracks, but her use on album closer Prince of Years is particularly effective where her gentle femme fetale vocals accentuate the track’s 60s lounge feel. In sound and feel, Baxter’s work is very similar to Jarvis Cocker’s solo output and it is no surprise that he is as popular in France as he is in the UK.
The variation that we have come to expect from Baxter is present on Prince. Letter Bomb is a punky fast number where Dury simply repeats the song’s title followed by Hart singing la-la-la-la and is very effective. Listen is also a faster number with spikey chords, that has an intro reminiscent of an early-eighties ska number, while the chorus is an ominous warning for intellectuals that “the white coats are coming for the clever ones” and to “hide your books, my boys”. Very Fahrenheit 451.
Baxter’s love of the minimalist and simplicity is featured all over the record. This simplicity helps drive the themes of the lyrics home, most noticeably in the Gang of Four-esque guitars on Porcelain, and the keyboard and hand claps on Almond Milk that intone a plasticity that is fitting with the tales of modern woe in the lyric. This track also features a lovingly understated feature from Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson on vocals.
The final trick in Dury’s bag is his dexterity, demonstrated by his use of the same vocal style from Miami but to completely different effect on the track Oi. As a result, Oi is one of the most emotional moments on the album, a slow number where Baxter recites in the first person a letter to an old friend: “Oi, remember me, that’s right, You gave me a bit of a whack when I was younger” as he wishes to find out what ever did happen to his mate who he has not seen since he was a kid.
It is these levels of honesty that are so welcoming. When combined with Baxter’s strong worth ethic and authenticity, the result is refreshing and ever so endearing.
MICHAEL D HOLLICK