Baxter Dury on “Prince of Tears”

Synthetically Authentic

Dec 12, 2017 Photography by Shervin Lainez Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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On his new album, Prince of Tears, Baxter Dury takes on a persona named Miami, and the results aren't pretty. "Miami," the four-and-a-half minute album opener, finds the British avant garde rocker (and son of the late, iconic 1970s/1980s singer/songwriter Ian Dury, of Ian Dury and the Blockheads fame) cursing, insulting, and grandstanding to no end against a nameless antagonist, sounding like id unbound, all over infectious, dancefloor ready beats and synths crafted by him and co-producer Ash Workman.

"Miami is a delusional character I created to allow me to create a vehicle for free speech, to say the things I want to," Dury explains. "I don't necessarily believe it, but I wanted to say it. It's a primal scream, just letting me let rip."

That track is followed by "Porcelain," which is equally aggressive, although it's not sung by Dury. Instead, he recruits collaborator Rose Elinor Dougall, who coos takedowns of a mysterious, woe begotten "porcelain boy" with enough venom to even make the mighty Miami character blush.

"I tried to sing it myself but ended up sounding too camp, almost homoerotic. I also couldn't sing the notes. And Rose is one of the only people I know who has such a strength to her voice. She's done a lot of poppy music, and I thought it would be interesting to hear her sing something that's more dark in nature, and I think she enjoyed that."

Despite the aggressive double shot of those opening tracks, Dury says there's so much more to Prince of Tears than that. "Hopefully we got all that out of the way, the male and female rants at the beginning, and then it starts to lighten up." And he's right, especially when it comes to subsequent tracks such as "Letter Bomb" (with its upbeat, practically punky vocal delivery), and "Almond Milk" (with its swaggering, breezy tone). Yet "Miami" was tapped to be the lead single, despite its menacing lyrics and all but spoken word vocal delivery (a hallmark of many of Dury's songs, but never more pronounced than here). Despite the song's unconventional nature, it was a hit with critics, with the British newspaper The Sunday Times describing it as a "spoken word stunner that would have made his dad, Ian, proud."

Dury posted a screenshot of that review on social media. But he wasn't sharing it for reasons one might assume. "I wasn't trying to link it back to my dad, I was more agreeing with the bit where he said it was really good," he says, before undercutting any arrogance, or semblance of his Miami character, in that statement, by explaining, "I don't usually make music where I agree it's good, but this time I do agree. So I'm not shying away."

Of the comparisons to his father, Dury adds: "I don't over entertain that subject, because it gets weighed down in an over interest in someone who had a big career. And that becomes fatiguing after awhile. Whatever ego I have, it makes me want to talk about my music and not my dad all the time."

Nevertheless, that critic's assertion that his father would've applauded "Miami" clearly pleases Dury to some extent. "He probably would've been proud as well, you never know with him," he says. "You never knew when he was going to be proud."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

 

www.baxterdury.net

 

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