There’s a couplet on Pleasure, the almost-title track of Baxter Dury’s new album, that’s not only the best lyric on the album but also among the very best lyrics likely to be heard from anyone all year: “Ferrero Rocher prostitutes / Primark debutants in boots”. This couplet – along with the bizarre cover art apparently comprising an image of Baxter emerging from a swimming pool next to a Photoshopped swan – encapsulates the record’s louche, chintzy aesthetic perfectly.
As with all his lyrics, Baxter Dury delivers those words in a whispery Estuary voice that would remind the listener of his dad Ian even if one didn’t know they were blood relations. In addition, Baxter seems to have inherited Ian’s penchant for setting his songs in very specific London locations, such as “the house in Chiswick” where a former girlfriend “loved to sit and give me a kiss”.
It’s a voice that tends to be inimical to melody but, fortunately, Dury has the perfect foil in the form of Fabienne Débarre, a member of the French indie group We Were Evergreen. Débarre’s cooing vocals are all over It’s A Pleasure, and they act as a welcome emollient for Dury’s bluntness. On Palm Trees, the two voices interlock exquisitely to hammer home the best hook on the album; elsewhere, the two voices provide contrasting perspectives on the grubby scene of domestic discord that unfolds on Police; there’s an undoubted pleasure to be gained from hearing a voice as pretty as Débarre deliver a line as ugly as “She’s just an angry neighbour / She wants to fuck you now”.
Musically, this is a doggedly minimalist work. The severely limited musical palette comprises plodding drum machines, naïve-sounding synths and the occasional bassline or guitar part. Those synth noises will elicit comparisons to the likes of OMD and Depeche Mode, but the most dominant influence on It’s A Pleasure comes from the unlikely source of Metronomy. Not only do Débarre’s vocals recall those of that act’s Anna Prior, but It’s A Pleasure shares the same crumpled, end-of-the-pier atmosphere of Metronomy’s masterful 2011 album The English Riviera.
Despite the restricted instrumentation, Dury does well to vary the tempos of these songs, meaning that they never quite bleed into one another in the listener’s head. That said, the second half is melodically inferior to the first, and, even at ten tracks in 33 minutes, there is the sense that this is a very good EP nestled within a merely good album. It’s A Pleasure ultimately comes across as slight as its deliberately platitudinous title, but Dury remains an intriguing talent who’s worth following.