Dury may not be as instantly iconic a name as Lennon, Dylan or Marley, but the weight of expectations must still lie heavy on Baxter Dury. His father Ian was one of the defining figures of the punk era, and his legacy lives on eleven years after his death.
Happy Soup is Dury’s third album, and is an accomplished collection of lo-fi indie pop which, fittingly, bring to mind a band heavily influenced by his father: Blur. Indeed, at times you could swear that this was that long awaited Albarn/Coxon reunion that all fans have been waiting for.
Baxter’s deadpan vocals are the centrepiece of the album, although he makes the wise decision to utilise the sweet, honeyed vocals of Madelaine Hart, who bounces off him perfectly. At times, it’s reminiscent of the Wakefield band The Research, with its focus on synth pop and boy/girl vocals, yet Dury’s genes ensure that the songs here are much stronger.
Opener Isabel is a lovely summery anthem, with the memorable chorus of “Isabel sleeping, Isabel sleeping, I think my mate slept with you when you were in Portugal” effortlessly nagging its way into the brain. Trellic is in a similar mould, with Hart broodily intoning “all I know is that we’re together” as Dury paints a picture of a day on Portobello Road.
The poppy side is offset by a languid melancholy on tracks such as Claire – which, together with the title track, is possibly the best thing on here – while the unsettling Picnic On The Edge is almost sinister in its tale of a family blighted by domestic violence, with a manic guitar solo hardly calming down proceedings.
It’s testament to Dury’s talent that his spoken-word delivery (on songs such as Leak At The Disco and especially the brilliant Happy Soup itself) is almost as effective as his singing voice. The title track in particular is very impressive, Dury muttering about “dark princesses” “basking sharks” and “silly little rave queens” over a gorgeous, slowly swelling melody. It’s here that Dury most effectively breaks away to carve out his own musical identity, and the effects are tremendous.
Admittedly, it doesn’t always work – the overtly whimsical Hotel In Brixton is proof of that while the out of tune guitar riffs on The Sun prove to be a bit too irritating. Yet the lush, redemptive sound of Trophies pulls everything back successfully and makes for a poignant closer to a largely enjoyable album.
He may never escape the enormous shadow cast by his father, but there’s more than enough here to suggest that Baxter Dury could well soon be releasing an album that doesn’t attract references to his famous name.