Dury’s third LP, after a six-year gap, perfectly balances the dark with the light.
Mischa Pearlman 2011-08-16
There’s a reason why clichés are clichés – because so often they’re true. And Baxter Dury – son of the late Blockhead Ian – is a living personification of that famous old adage: like father, like son. Happy Soup is the 39-year-old’s third album, coming almost six years after his last full-length effort, and it’s infused with the legacy of his renowned father. That said, these 10 tracks don’t try to replicate the latter’s iconoclastic, idiosyncratic style. Rather, the tenderness and tightness of that inherent paternal bond shines through these laid-back, lethargic songs.
The album begins with Isabel, a hazy ode to reckless one-night stands and the blurry recollections that usually follow. "I think my mate slept with you when we were in Portugal," he intones in his distinctive London brogue over a guitar and synth line that’s both sinister and seedy. That sense of being on the edge of reality, of being perpetually hungover, of being uncertain about where you’ve been for the last day or week or year, of an underlying sadness that feels like it’ll never go away permeates the entire record. Leak at the Disco is dreamy and melancholy, flitting between Dury’s deep, gruff spoken-word verses and the bittersweet charm of the female-sung chorus.
Elsewhere, Afternoon is a slow meditation on the follies of youth that’s less rose-tinted than alcohol-tainted; the title-track is a not-so-sweet serenade set in and after a dingy club in the early hours of the morning; and Picnic on the Edge is an up-tempo, reckless quasi-punk anthem. Every song positively brims with the characters within them. As such, you become attached to their narratives, their lives, their fortunes and failings, their tired, drunken eyes. Of course, that in turn brings you closer to Dury’s own jaded solemnity, and with each listen you’re more and more absorbed by and into his own world, one equally as distinctive as his father’s. It’s also one that’s riddled with a slight despair, but one, oddly, that inspires as much as it depresses. "No-one ever told us," lilts the gentle refrain of penultimate number The Sun, "that we’re gonna be left alone." It’s a devastating (and sadly true) statement, but it’s one you can’t help singing along to with a smile on your lips. It’s wonderfully illustrative of the perfect balance of darkness and light that informs this album from start to finish.