Baxter Dury’s 7th Album, I Thought I Was Better Than You, shows Dury at his brilliant best. The new LP explores his childhood with an eye to honesty, emotion and vulnerability that shocks and inspires: all in under half an hour.
From ITIWBTY‘s first moments, Dury is self-aware and charming, opening proceedings with the line “Hey mummy, hey daddy, who am I?” on ‘So Much Money’. Dury sets the tone from the off and pokes fun at his punk credentials in a way that is disarming and engaging. The album is catchy, too. ‘Aylesbury Boy’ tells the story of Baxter’s schooling at a “posh” Kensington establishment, revelling in the juxtaposition of being dropped off there by a drug dealer and his girlfriend. The track also plays as a wider reflection on being the son of a musician, something that has shaped his life and his career.
Not only is this record deeply personal (it mirrors much of Dury’s recent autobiography Chaise Longue), but musically Dury finds a brilliant accompaniment to his words. 808 beats swagger with a lounge-inspired groove whilst granting the space for punkier moments to rear their head. ‘Celebrate Me’ is a wonderful highlight; Portishead beats are soaked in keys and complemented with live drums. “Lick my forehead you white bread-eating cockroach” is a fine example of Dury’s wonderful lexicon on ITIWBTY. His wordplay is stocked with colloquialisms and quirks, but Dury’s delivery is fantastic throughout, his drawl and language reminiscent of John Cooper Clarke, or Nick Cave with a London accent.
‘Leon’ is another high-point. Dury is accompanied by JGrrey‘s vocal, an addition which complements his lethargic elocution and the track’s simplistic, funky beat. JGrrey features throughout the album, alongside fellow singer-songwriter Eska and Dury’s long-time collaborator Madeline Hart. Elsewhere on the record, there is a brilliant anecdote about crashing into a Tesla (‘Crashes’), and numerous stories about the characters who made up Dury’s childhood, where the artist delivers his unique poetry and invokes laughter as readily as he invokes tears. This record is fantastic work.
Ricochets from the surreal and witty to the deeply personal is conducted with ease by Dury, who’s instrumentation complements his every word. Remaining interesting and emotional whilst being catchy and charming is a difficult line to walk, but it’s a tightrope that Baxter Dury struts effortlessly throughout I Thought I Was Better Than You.
photo credit: Tom Berd