Baxter Dury

The Night Chancers

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Over his last few albums, especially on 2018's Prince of Tears, Baxter Dury came up with a winning formula that entailed him drawling out tales of decadence and despair in a dry monotone. His prickly persona and caustic wit are surrounded by angelic female vocals on the choruses, swooning string sections, rubbery bass lines, and a slinky, trip-hop-influenced nocturnal mood. The formula is perfected on 2020's The Night Chancers. Dury and his cast of handy helpers imbue the songs with a kind of gutter-y grandeur and smudged beauty that was hinted at in the past but now comes through loud and clear. This is oddly pretty music with sneaky sweet melodies and singalong choruses peeking through the grime that are oft slashed into ribbons by Dury's nasty monologues, snipey asides, and overall Gainsbourg-ian vinegar. He's reliably hilarious and cutting in turn, whether he's sneeringly going after other targets (the tightly wound "Saliva Hog," "The Night Chancers") or swiping hard at the one person who's always there to take him down a notch or two, Dury himself ("Carla's Got a Boyfriend," "Hello I'm Sorry"). The melodies are a little sharper this time around as well. The female vocalists (a cast that includes previous collaborators Rose Elinor Dougall, Madeline Hart, and Delilah Holliday) have some very nice moments throughout as they deliver the album's memorable hooks. They shine brightest on the disco-adjacent "Say Nothing" as they croon the titular chorus, then chant "Baxter Loves You!" in dramatic fashion, just enough times to lodge it intractably in the listener's brain. Listeners might want to clear some more space inside the cranium for the rest of the album, too. The Night Chancers is the kind of record that hits instantly thanks to its smooth and strangely comforting surfaces, then each subsequent listen takes it deeper as Dury's delivery and outlook become more and more embraceable. He's struggled to make his own way in the music world, free of his father's influence. It seems safe to say that albums as good as this prove that Baxter has arrived with a voice and sound of his own.

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