I realised a couple of things this morning. The first thing is that, when it comes to reviewing new albums, I’m a bit crap. Even if it happens to be a new album by someone I have always loved. I reckon I’m much better at talking about an album and how it made, or continues to make, me feel. In turn, it makes me realise how difficult a job it is to actually review a new album when it’s something you have to do for a living. Why am I telling you this? Well, because I really want to tell you how much I love the recently purchased Baxter Dury album. If you read the blog where I talked about how Jo and I were arguing over who was going to buy it first, she won.
The second thing and, perhaps the best place to start with this Baxter Dury album- Happy Soup- is the realisation that one of the things I really love in music, aside from a Bjork Army of Me, or a Massive Attack Angel, bassline is that magic moment when one voice intertwines with another and creates a sound that makes the hairs on the back of your neck. Or even when that magic moment when one voice gives way to another, totally distinct but somehow totally belonging together. Who knows, it may even be why I love Tricky. It’s certainly one of the many reasons I love Depeche Mode- hmmm, I haven’t mentioned them for a while, I have I? What’s that all about?
As for Neil Finn and Lisa Germano singing Turn and Run together… well. Anyway, all this goes to say that Happy Soup is an album well up my street. It’s mad to think that it was only two weeks ago that I saw Baxter perform, because it’s difficult to imagine a time when I wasn’t listening to his album. And yeah, I know how that sounds, but it’s true. There again, with his dad, Ian, being the author of my first favourite song, perhaps it’s not surprising.
I think the major thing about this album, the thing that has the plastic edges of the cd case locking itself to my heart and not letting go is the real feeling of intimacy that comes from the album. Like Tricky, Baxter doesn’t worry too much about singing, apart from on the bouncy Trellic, but his spoken word vocals rumble along leaving space for Madelaine Hart to provide the soul. The best example of this is, funnily enough, the title track. If I was drawn in to Happy Soup by the single Claire, with it’s 40 a day, alcohol soaked pleading cry “Don’t waste your life Claire/ Don’t waste the places you might go”; then the title track is a melancholic (opening line “I can’t even weep, huddled on the floor” sets the tone beautifully) masterpiece that could almost have been composed with me in mind.
For me, the track that most resembles Ian Dury & The Blockheads is the wonderfully titled Picnic on the Edge. What a great idea that is. Well, it would be one to watch, if not necessarily be part of. Hotel In Brixton has got some kind of asthmatic organ vibe, as if Blur’s Lot 105 has gone a bit wrong, going on and allows Madelaine Hart to take centre stage. It’s not a particularly happy place, this hotel, “Boys will cry, my tears will fall”. But it is a good song.
As the album draws to a close, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley features on The Sun. Interestingly, he features alongside a bass line that starts off in a place not a million miles away from Portishead’s Glory Box (or Tricky’s Hell Around The Corner come to that). The repeated “Noone told us we’re gonna be left alone” refrain sung by Madelaine alludes to some kind of regret, but defiance too. It’s pretty uplifting stuff. On the final track, Trophies, Baxter gets a little tune going and tells us to “wake up and embrace today”. And, on that positive note, the album ends.
I guess, having been so impressed by his, unexpected, live performance a couple of weeks back, I was always going to be predisposed to liking this album. But what I didn’t expect was the way these songs and tunes have stuck with me, embedding themselves into my head, as well as my aforementioned heart. It’s a great little album, this.