Whole forests have perished so that idea-starved music journalists might fill space exploring the concept of the cult artist. We’ll refrain from adding to discussion, except to say that our favorite subspecies of cult artist is the Great English Eccentric. The G.E.E. embodies the unique (more accurately, “those unique,” since there are so many styles) characteristics of Englishness that ensure small but steady American sales, and the correspondingly tiny-but-intensely-devoted fan groups. Think Robyn Hitchcock, the Jazz Butcher, or Martin Newell, but think especially the late Ian Dury.
We’ll say right off the bat that it’s manifestly unfair to Baxter Dury to begin a review of his first album by mentioning his father, but that’s the trade-off the children of the famous make: your name gets you the contract, but unless you make something with your own sensibility, you’ll be looked at in the context of your famous parent. To his credit, Dury the Younger seems to understand this. “I was quite unqualified. I got a deal really prematurely, probably because of Dad, who he was,” he said in a recent interview in the Independent. In the same article he acknowledged the obligation to create unique music as opposed to watered-down Ian.
Which is why it’s such a pleasure to listen to Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift. This is clearly the work of a talented young man, and in no sense an attempt to cash in on his father’s legacy. While song titles like “Auntie Jane” or “Gingham Smalls 2″ would seem to indicate a similar sensibility to the diamond geezer who penned New Boots and Panties, the music bespeaks completely different influences: Mercury Rev and Spiritualized spring immediately to mind, while outright tribute is paid to the Velvet Underground in the splendid “Oscar Brown.” We think the phrase “space rock” obscures more than it explains, but if understand what sounds the phrase is associated with, you’ll have a decent idea of Len Parrot already.
Those expecting Ian’s cockney growl will be somewhat surprised by Baxter’s more whispery timbre (although his vowels can indeed be squeezed into hugely unfamiliar shapes). The voice, oddly enough, is slightly reminiscent of Marc Bolan. The backing band includes members of Pulp, Portishead, and, in a nice touch that both nods to his legacy while emphasizing his individuality, a couple of Blockheads. It’s too cliché to write this, but sometimes phrases become cliché for a reason: Baxter Dury is an artist to look out for. And possibly the next Great English Eccentric. Which is something he inherited from his old man.
This review appears in slightly modified form at The Minor Fall, The Major Lift.