Think again, Baxter Dury, some of us own velvet sofas. Still, only one of the two people involved in this article has a saxophone opener on their latest album, I Thought I Was Better Than You. Perhaps he thought right. There is nothing cooler, not a single bit calmer, than opening the wandering mind to the rising and somewhat robotic elements of opener So Much Money. Not biting as it could be, but nothing twee either. A fine blend from Dury seeks out some middle ground between capitalist convention and the handwringing which sparks from it and the slabs of human choice. Broad notions, atypical perspectives and a drum machine are all Dury needs for this half-hour experience.
Standing above a fair few records from this year, the longevity of I Thought I Was Better Than You comes from the monotone voice of the man at the heart of the storm. Bleeding these tracks together without so much as a flicker of acknowledgement to the change of listing, Dury forms a fascinating project which skims through itself thoroughly well. Talent certainly runs in the family, although tying the style and opportunities of Baxter and Ian Dury together feels like shortchange for the former, who has navigated his way through with a real finesse for the art pop on display here. He has the ability and power to cause some ruptures, as Aylesbury Boy captures. But it is Celebrate Me that questions the hyperinflation of disinterested-yet-expected attraction to cultural expectations.
Defiance comes from a desire or attraction, not an expectation. Dury finds this well and sticks to it with fiery grace. Deadpan wanders through the streets of London and the desire to work the craft, to push his voice further and further. His sophisti-pop style bleeds the city and Dury’s surroundings. They are integral and important credits to hear as he batters through the likes of Leon and the short, dwindling fears of Sincere. For those in the UK, the likes of Pale White Nissan will do more cultural heavy lifting than most tracks which believe they find themselves in touch or in tune with the world around them. It comes from experience, and Dury gambles on his listener having the same as him. Helpful it is for the pointers which come through, the broader cultural gambits he litters throughout, it can feel alienating or out of step at times as Shadow struggles to continue this good form.
Still, listing off the problems of the past and present is not the engrossing, political powerhouse Dury believes it to be. Even then, though, there is more than enough throughout I Thought I Was Better Than You to think maybe Dury is better than you. Not for those with green velvet sofas though, which stretch from door to kitchen entrance in a measuring mishap. But certainly you, the person touched by the backing vocal consistencies, the powerful messages scattered throughout and with enough of a push to make it feel all okay and secure. Despite the antonym always prevailing in life and in music, Dury gives his listeners something to hope for, Crowded Rooms has a belief in itself and in the listener, to be better than Dury thought he was when comparing himself to you.