Matt Abbott: It was August 2012 when I first listened to ‘Happy Soup’ by Baxter Dury. It was late at night and I was stumbling from track to track on Spotify, trying to find something new that’d grab me. For some reason or another it just wasn’t happening, but as I’d listened to my ‘New Boots and Panties!!’ vinyl earlier that day, I decided to give the great man’s offspring a spin. As soon as opening track ‘Isabel’ flooded my eardrums, I knew it was a good decision.
Not very often that an album has such a lasting impression. Maybe once or twice a year I’ll discover something that I love as much as this, and to be perfectly honest, more often than not it’s an album that was released decades ago. Not to say that all contemporary music is shit of course, that’s not where I’m coming from at all, but I guess it’s harder for any potentially iconic records to stand out from the crowd in this digital day and age.
Anyway, I knew on first listen that I was going to devour this record until I knew it better than Baxter himself. Sometimes you’ll get that excited feeling and you’ll tweet about it and get all giddy, and then a few weeks later said album is back on the shelves. But with ‘Happy Soup’, I just kept listening again, and again, and again, and again. It has a really consuming quality to it; real presence and atmosphere, and the kind of record where it’d be criminal just to play the one track.
Baxter himself is of course brilliant. His voice is gruff and dare I say sexy, and his vocals have a natural ease and charisma that carries the album with effortless charm. It’d be impossible to discuss this album without mentioning Madeleine Hart; her haunting and hypnotic backing vocals are a crucial part of the appeal and together the two singers provide the perfect juxtaposition across the ten songs. Occasionally Madeleine will quite capably take centre stage, and without her input this record would be nowhere near as engaging. I guess in a sense her contrasting input reminds me of Tracey Wilkinson; a dear (and ridiculously talented) friend that provided backing vocals on the Skint & Demoralised début.
The stand-out track for me is ‘Leak at the Disco’; by far and away my favourite track of 2012. I remember listening to it on repeat whilst lying on a sun bed in the baking early afternoon heat of the Algarve, and in an instant it takes me back there with every listen since. To be quite honest I’m finding it difficult to describe the song in a way that’ll do it justice; it epitomises the “dream-pop” tag that Baxter has collected, and it still leaves me with goose-bumps even now. At one stage I must have listened to it about twenty times a day.
It was whilst I was listening to ‘Happy Soup’ in September 2012 that we were beginning the final sessions for ‘The Bit Between The Teeth’. At the time we had six songs completed, and needed to write another three or four. I’d not written anything for nearly a year and with the constraints of a full-time job that I’d taken in June, I’d not really had much spare time to think about writing either. Since ‘This Sporting Life’, every track we’d written had featured me singing, as opposed to the early spoken word approached that formed part of the signature S&D sound.
For some reason I’d never really planned on reverting back to spoken word, but when I heard ‘Leak at the Disco’, it made me want to try again. I scribbled down a few verses at the side of the pool but ultimately I was left with a writer’s worst scenario; the more you try and force it, the further away it drifts. So I headed down to the beach for the afternoon, and on returning back to the Hotel, I received an e-mail from MiNI dOG on my phone. It was a new instrumental that he wanted me to try, and he suggested that a spoken word approach might work. I’m still convinced that there’s a hint of telepathy present when we’re writing songs together, even when I was nearly 2000 miles away.
The instrumental hit me like a ten tonne truck. I ran downstairs, ordered a pint of Super Bock from the bar and scribbled down nigh-on 1500 words in one go. It was a relentless and furious burst of lyrics that literally came out of nowhere as soon as I heard the instrumental, and now that the dust has settled a little, I’d say it’s our finest piece of work to date, full stop. We’ve only had a few reviews of the new album so far, but every single one of them has highlighted this song as the stand-out piece of work. And with less than two weeks until release date, I can’t wait until it’s out there for all to discover.
Some might say that opening the new record with an eight minute spoken word epic is a bit risky; stupid even. But if Baxter had written the same song on ‘Happy Soup’ and decided that it sat best at the start of the record, would he have thought twice about putting it there? Would he fuck. And neither would his old man for that matter. So if you haven’t heard it already then I implore you to listen to ‘Happy Soup’ by Baxter Dury, and fingers crossed you’ll like the resulting S&D track ‘Amores Perros’ as well. You never know…Baxter himself might even get to hear it one day. I won’t get my hopes up though ;)
Thanks for reading as always.