Baxter Dury - Happy Soup (Regal)

11 Aug 2011

“That voice, let no-one kid themselves, is not his own. It’s his dad’s. He obviously knows that better than anyone, and never once shies away from what must only come naturally, never falling back on affection...”; release – 2011

+F

Baxter Dury’s music is overshadowed by his voice and intonation. This is, for a large portion of his third album, no bad thing. That voice, let no-one kid themselves, is not his own. It’s his dad’s. He obviously knows that better than anyone, and never once shies away from what must only come naturally, never falling back on affection. Given the right chord change, a similar inflection to the ones his father made his own in the 70s, and you could be listening to classic Ian Dury here – albeit with grittier lyrics. And backed by what sounds an awful lot like Metronomy. At their most springy and robotic.

Sorry to harp on about it, but Baxter’s dulcet tones are so very central to Happy Soup’s genetic make-up that it would leave nothing to talk about were we to omit consideration of it from this review. That said, later tracks ‘The Sun’ and ‘Trelli’c, lead by charmingly disarming vocalist Madelaine Hart, are definite standouts. She sings with a detached determination that floors you with almost every line, and when duetting with Dury, as on numerous other tracks, it’s a cocktail that’s hard to refuse.

We get tales of romance in nightclubs, failed romance in sunnier climes, and desperately longed for cuddles. The general air is one of missed opportunities and unspoken desires, and the pin-sharp observation through which Dury’s meandering, word-heavy tales are delivered is heartily irresistible.

But so to the problems. Much of what Dury is trying to convey doesn’t lend itself well to the minimal, bass-led rhythms his band are pumping out. Think Pulp circa This Is Hardcore (women gone bad, holidays gone awry, drugs everywhere, all topped off with a dash of grey monotony) and you’re close. The contrast is uneasy, the content here too girl-focused, and the continual lyrical references to the ordinary stifle proceedings. You want to know how Baxter feels. You get an impression, sure, but he rarely engages. There is a lot to be said for hinting rather than spelling it out. Sex may well sell, but seduction is a whole different matter.

Still, Baxter has found a sound that’s remarkably unique in the 21st century (if not the 20th). With a little tweaking of his poetry and greater use of Madelaine Hart, album four should be a well-honed beast indeed.

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