“The Night Chancers” released by Heavenly Records, is Baxter Dury’s 6th album. It continues the long term collaboration with producer Craig Silvey. The pair are purveyors of sleazy, alternative pop music. Soaked in synth strings and catchy keyboard hooks, with funky bass lines, choppy or picked guitars and electronica fillers, over which Baxter, with the help of vocalist Madelaine Hart, tells his tales.
“The Night Chancers” is an album looking into the seedier shadows of life, in particular, the characters who emerge after the sun’s gone down. In the short press release, Baxter says “The Night Chancers” is about being caught out in your attempt at being free.” Throughout the album, Baxter takes on different, murky characters from the internet stalker to the jilted lover, left alone in a hotel room at 3 AM. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Baxter is probably from the school of the “method acting.” Much of the subject matter has the feeling of being a first-hand account.
The album opens with the bass-led “I’m Not Your Dog” where we meet the first of Baxter’s characters. The opening line “I’m not your f**king friend. Trying to be though” sets the general tone of the album and, bleary-eyed it gazes into the latest of hours. “Slumlord” finds Baxter at his dirtiest, darkest, pop best. Hung around Madelaine’s sweetly sung, catchy chorus and the combination of sweeping strings and a simple guitar hook “Sleepless angels have blessed us” mutters Baxter desperately, before admitting “Scary people, saying silly s**t.”
Elsewhere Baxter parodies the fashionistas on “Saliva Hog” and on “Sleep People” with “There’s free drinks for the pencil-thin and there’s nowhere like ice swans on patios.” Then on “Samurai,” with it’s grand sweeping synth strings, Baxter’s bitter, middle-aged, lovelorn character’s behaviour commands little pity, “I’m baby faced. No one ignores me.”
The fantastic and instantly catchy tune of “Carla’s Got A Boyfriend” brings Baxter back to his Instagram stalking. A sneering, brooding tale of following Carla’s new squeeze around the internet, “He’s got horrible trousers and a small car.” Then menacingly “I might take care of him, to be honest.” However this is a song about broken promises and hearts, the twist “Carla’s got a problem… Carla’s got a boyfriend that looks like me.” Or at least that’s what the “jilted John” wants to believe.
“Good cheer to the wee hours” Sings Baxter on “The Night Chancers” the title song, brimming with self-satire. A slightly desperate and insecure late-night chancer of a song. Insecurity bubbles to the top again in “Hello, I’m sorry.” An almost disco-funk tune, over which Baxter is answering the telephone. It’s the morning after a big night out. The listener hears just one half of the conversation, “I’m sure it wasn’t me” says Baxter, wincing.
The album wraps up with “Say Nothing.” Lyrically Baxter paints his most pitiful, sorrowful, fragile character here and when Madelaine sings “Baxter, loves you” the witty, clever album circle is complete. From Baxter not wanting to be your friend, to Baxter loving you, it’s difficult to tell which is the preferred relationship.
“The Night Chancers” is a lyrically candid, well crafted, alternative, electro-pop album. It finally feels as if Baxter Dury has managed to step out of his father’s enormous shadow. There’s no need to fill a Baxter Dury review with Ian Dury facts and Blockhead material.