The story goes that when Baxter Dury played Radiohead’s OK Computer for his old man, the late and greatly lamented Ian, the elder Dury had to be forcibly restrained from seizing the offending disc and hurling it out a window. For that one reason, then, it was lucky the great man didn’t live to hear Baxter’s debut. If Radiohead’s art rock opus prompted such a negative reaction, Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift might have set off the nastiest father-son feud since Anakin and Luke Skywalker commenced lopping off each other’s hands. This musical apple didn’t just fall far from the tree — it hopped a cross-country bus and took up residence in a different orchard entirely.
Len Parrot wasn’t produced by Dave Fridmann, but it could’ve been — it slots easily alongside the art-pop of such clients as the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Gemma Hayes and the Delgados. “Lucifer’s Grain” and “Oscar Brown” (which nods to the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”) are instantly memorable ornate pop gems. Unlike many other second-generation rock musicians, Baxter is unafraid to be his own person musically — his angelic croon bears no resemblance to his dad’s lovable croak, and only rarely does his music intersect the same plane as Ian’s scrappy, funky pub rock. But musical inspiration appears to be embedded deep in the Dury DNA, and while it’s hard to imagine what Ian might have made of this, Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift is a work of such obvious talent and imagination it’s even harder to think he wouldn’t have been very proud.
The sound of Dury’s second album is rougher and more abrasive than the first, but his striking melodic sense still shines through. Apparently recorded after a bitter breakup with the mother of his child, Floor Show has a much darker mood than the playful, ornate Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift. Fuzzed-out tracks (such as the single “Francesca’s Party”) paint a dark portrait of anger and venom, but couple the bile with an easy agility for pop hooks. Dury doesn’t sound like he had much fun recording Floor Show, but he’s too good at what he does to ever let that get in the way of a great tune.