Baxter Dury: The Night Chancers review – a grubbily compelling reality

Other Men’s Girls, from the 2014 album It’s a Pleasure, hinted that Baxter Dury might have found a style that would enable him to really express his voice. That style – Dury offering lugubrious spoken vignettes about lives that are, in one way or another, desperate, over a backing that was lush without being intrusive – was the sound of Prince of Tears in 2017, and it’s developed on The Night Chancers, his sixth album. Imagine Serge Gainsbourg as a London wide boy in a dirty suit, hanging around ropey bars rather than Parisian brasseries, and you’re almost there.

Where its predecessor was concerned with Dury’s collapsing relationship, The Night Chancers – as its title suggests, is more character-driven. “He’s just a slobby spiv / With an open shirt, scales breath / And high level bronzer / Covering up what you campaigned against,” he intones on Saliva Hog. Or there’s the man in Carla’s Got a Boyfriend, who’s got “Horrible trousers / And a small car / Bit of designer hair / Sloppy facial looks”. It’s dependent on Dury’s narration and peculiarly downbeat charisma – the music (written with guitarist Shaun Paterson and co-produced by Craig Silvey) is designed to serve the voice: you’re not coming to The Night Chancers for big hooks and singalong choruses.

Dury carries it off. His phrasemaking and delivery is immaculate: he plays with accents, albeit within a limited palette, and you listen to The Night Chancers believing it to be a real world.