sun 24/09/2023

Album: Baxter Dury - I Thought I Was Better Than You | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Baxter Dury - I Thought I Was Better Than You

Album: Baxter Dury - I Thought I Was Better Than You

Sad-funny, brilliant and worth playing on repeat

'Absolutely haunting'

This is a slight album in terms of length (under half an hour) but not in emotional insight. It’s absolutely haunting. Here we have the characteristic all-consuming melancholy that oozes from Baxter Dury but without the menace of Prince of Tears. And his f*cked up childhood still takes centre stage.

From the off, he’s poking at his own ego and the struggle for familial understanding. “Hey mummy, hey daddy, who am I?” he asks, mockingly, at the start of “So Much Money” (later remembering “potato-faced ancestors”). Not far from the age Ian Dury was when he died, Baxter is a father himself and looks back in horror at the unparented upbringing that allowed him to get away with pretty much anything. And not in a good way.

Describing himself as “a really budget nepo baby, posh and unwashed” he was stuck between two completely different worlds. Negotiating between the classes, the fabulously catchy “Aylesbury Boy” tells the tale of growing up the cultural wasteland of said Buckinghamshire town, then being whisked away to “posh” school in Kensington, driven by a drug dealer and his girlfriend. Bizarrely, this makes for an engaging and groovy single where, amongst other pithy observations, he categorises his life now as “Pinot noir sunsets and burger king trousers” and uses that most wonderful of colloquialisms “chirpsing”. His deadpan delivery is faultless, his rhyme-making at least as good as his dad’s. Part of the strength of this album lies in the bumped-up female element. He’s joined on this track by both JGrrey and Madeline Hart.

“Celebrate Me” is simply gorgeous – gentle, mellow, melodic and flowing yet utterly brutal. Add to that funny – “he’s a brave man eating hummus in the morning” and grim – “I’m drowning in those urine lakes.” Ostensibly about ego (again), he says it’s “a stream of consciousness rant about being predictably bohemian, west London-ish and attention seeking.” But don’t let that put you off. “Leon”, a synth- and bass-heavy rhythmic bouncer, concerns a shop-lifting incident in his childhood. Although the eponymous Leon is the perpetrator, Baxter gets caught and there are no parents available to collect him, let alone explain. And slap in the middle is a very strange interlude of “made-up language” which is frankly disturbing.

“Shadow”, written with his 20-year-old son Kosmo, starts with Beverley-Sisters-esque ditty and then digs ever-deeper into that troubled history, with some truly splendid lyrics “They say you’re a modern Gainsbourg, out of tune and absurd, but no one will get over that you’re someone’s son, even though you want to be like Frank Ocean, but you don’t sound like him, you sound just like Ian.” “Crowded Rooms” sounds like another single (if they can dub out the filth) – it’s emotive yet danceable and leaves the excellent female voices to do most of the work (Eska Mtungwazi joins here). Baxter describes the final song, “Glows” as optimistic, but it sounds pretty dark to me, meandering as it does to the end of album you just want to put on repeat. But should we laugh or cry? 

His deadpan delivery is faultless, his rhyme-making at least as good as his dad’s.

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters