wed 27/05/2020

Album: Baxter Dury - The Night Chancers | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Baxter Dury - The Night Chancers

Album: Baxter Dury - The Night Chancers

The singer turns storyteller with a collection of skilfully drawn vignettes

“I’m not your fucking friend,” intones Baxter Dury as recent single “I’m Not Your Dog” begins. As opening salvos go, it’s right up there with the best of them, full of sneering hostility and fiery intent. As an introduction, it’s a writer’s hook – pushing us away while drawing us in.

“I’m not your fucking friend,” intones Baxter Dury as recent single “I’m Not Your Dog” begins. As opening salvos go, it’s right up there with the best of them, full of sneering hostility and fiery intent. As an introduction, it’s a writer’s hook – pushing us away while drawing us in.

If 2017’s Prince of Tears was an exercise in autobiographical confessional, The Night Chancers feels like Dury’s first, full-blown novel. The songs here boast a keen-eyed observation that creates a tableau into which his sharply drawn characters dive and thrive.

That’s not to say it’s not grounded in personal experience. “The only skill I’ve got is being honest,” Dury claims, and he’s clearly writing what he knows. That said, his frame of reference is as wide-angle as they come. On “Slumlord” and “Saliva Hog” he’s able to create grotesques from opposite ends of the social spectrum with an enviable economy of words, stripping back to basic building blocks, compressing meaning, and communicating volumes with intonation and pinpoint word choices.

The overwhelming sense is of life lived in between places, in the gaps that people fall down when they’re lost or overlooked. The skilfully drawn vignettes are laced with both humour: “Carla’s got a boyfriend/He’s got horrible trousers/And a small car” (Carla’s Got a Boyfriend); and regret: “You left me with the crumbs of my spare thoughts/You left me with the noise of the night chancers” (“The Night Chancers”). It all feeds into a coherent and impressively consistent narrative milieu. Dury has always been a distinctive voice, but here he seems to have found a new clarity, not just in the timbre of his tone, but also in the world he draws with it.

Musically, The Night Chancers shares the lush, widescreen feel previously brought to Dury’s music by Jarvis Cocker and Richard Barratt on their remix of 2017 single “Miami”. It’s a fuller sound that ranges from slow and low Italo arpeggio to grooves that Gainsbourg would be proud of. The pace and atmosphere of the piece are also helped immeasurably by the live orchestra, which lends a sense of storied gravitas throughout. It is, in short, rather splendid.

“Baxter loves you,” comes the refrain on “Say Nothing”, the album’s parting shot. The feeling may well be mutual.  

Below: Watch the video for "I'm Not Your Dog" by Baxter Dury


Dury creates grotesques from opposite ends of the social spectrum with an enviable economy of words

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