listen to Baxter Dury’s great new LP ‘Prince of Tears’
Baxter Dury has always brought a conversational tone to his songs, and on his great new album Prince of Tears it's more than ever like you're eavesdropping on other people. "They’re biographical film soundtracks for an imaginary film about myself, which is fictional," says Baxter. "The man singing and speaking it all is unreliable; he can’t see the world properly. It's massively delusional, but because of that it’s also emotionally true."
The tone is set with the first song, "Miami," which paints a vivid portrait of a washed-up blowhard boasting to anyone who'll listen. "I'm the turgid fucked up little goat, pissing on your fucking hill / And you can't shit me out, 'cos you can't catch me...'cos you're so fat. So fuck ya." This is all delivered in Baxter's low, marble-mouthed, heavily accented voice. It's really all about the delivery. We also get chance encounters with terrible childhood acquaintances ("Oi"), lost love ("Mungo"), suburban ennui ("Listen"), and a few examples of Middle Age Crisis (the happy/sad closers "Wanna" and "Prince of Tears").
Musically, Baxter is working with the same basic template he has on his previous two albums: the kind of disco-tinged, pub rock new wave that isn't a million miles away from what his father, Ian Dury, did in his prime. The production is spare and punchy, like early '00s Spoon, with some killer basslines ("August," "Listen," "Miami") and perfectly wobbly keyboards. It's a vivid mise en scène that Baxter's sad, relatable characters inhabit, with frequent collaborator Madeline Heart's counterpoint vocals adding sweetness and contrasting lyrical viewpoints.
He adds a few other characters to the stories as well. Sleaford Mods' Jason Williams, in what may be his most restrained vocal performance ever, shows up at the end of "Almond Milk." Rose Elinor Dougall sings lead on "Porcelain Boy" and fits right into the album's world so well that you might not even notice the first time listening that Baxter doesn't sing on it at all. It all makes for a near-perfect vignette anthology that drops us into places we may not want to live but make for a memorable, perhaps weird, vacation.
You can stream Prince of Tears in full, and watch the video for "Miami," below.