Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Parlophone
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
Snapping out of his folkie fixation, Graham Coxon returns to the fractious guitar skronk of his early solo career on A+E. There's a world of difference between the honed propulsion of A+E and the unformed sketches of his early works: there's plenty of mess here but it's purposeful, sometimes threaded into a steely stiletto, sometimes hanging off the song skeletons like shredded entrails. All the noise comprises sonic brush strokes; it's part of the way Coxon paints his aural picture, and where he was delicately impressionistic on The Spinning Top, he's splattering paint on the canvas here, creating bright, messy, modernistic art.
Guitarists over 40 don’t have a great record for recapturing their teenage angst and fury with dignity. Once they hit middle-age, most of them sensibly embrace new avenues – see Jonny Greenwood’s reinvention as a Hollywood soundtracker who’d rather solo on duck call than play an actual guitar – or mellow, like Noel on the elegiac dad-rock of ‘… High Flying Birds’. On the evidence of 2009’s psych-folk ‘The Spinning Top’, Graham Coxon seemed to be going the same way as the elder Gallagher.
Review Summary: Golden GrahamGraham Coxon, erstwhile Blur guitarist, has always appeared to possess a notable and apparent dark side. Even when his former group were at their poppiest and most ludicrous, there was a continued shadowy presence underneath the surface. As Damon Albarn urged us to gather around, eager to tell us “a story of a charmless man” and that “it really, really, really could happen”, Coxon was doing his best to fulfil the terms of the former.
In the three years since Graham Coxon released The Spinning Top, he has reunited on stage and in the studio with Blur, from whom he split somewhat acrimoniously in 2002. Is it more than coincidence that he's abandoned the gentle folk strums of The Spinning Top and kicks off A+E yelping: "I'm pretty much back where I started and it's quite concerning me"? Coxon's wilfully abrasive eighth solo album might bring him full circle, but it also sends him spiralling into thrilling new territory. A+E churns with industrial rhythms and krautrock-influenced basslines that throb menacingly beneath stabbing keyboard riffs, splintered guitars and maniacal burps from a battered saxophone.
At the height of Blur’s fame during the Britpop ‘90s, it fell to Graham Coxon to single-handedly maintain his group’s indie credibility. Contrasted with its archrival Oasis—Northern England-bred, working-class, rrrrrock with a rolled “r”—the middle-class Colchester natives that made up Blur were less gritty, more cerebral, and more pop, traits that at times made the group look stuffy and insincere in comparison. (It certainly didn’t help that singer Damon Albarn took to exalting the virtues of football in a condescendingly fake Cockney accent during the period).
There was a time-- 1997-2001, to be precise-- when Graham Coxon was revered as the experimental weirdo in Blur: the media-shy, anti-pop provocateur who forced the most quintessentially British of Britpop bands to toss out their Jam and Kinks records and tune into the more dissonant frequencies of Pavement and Sonic Youth. But the outcome of Blur's initial early-00s dissolution tells a different story: While Coxon's foil/nemesis Damon Albarn has successfully transformed himself from NME pinup into a globe-trotting Afro-pop fusionist with a penchant for genre-blurring super-group collaborations, Coxon's output comes off as relatively conservative in comparison. With eight albums under his belt, Coxon's amassed a discography larger than Blur's, but whether he's indulging in Nick Drakean folk whimsy or Buzzcockian punk rave-ups, he's mostly stayed true to time- and MOJO-honored British musical traditions.
The Brits 2012. Globally-adored, multi-million-unit-shifting pop songstress Adele has just had her Best British Artist acceptance speech cut short by multi-million-shit-joke-shifting celebrity brown-noser James Corden. Adele flicks Corden two of her finest digits and saunters off to the cradling arms of her record label chums and a champagne-soaked table.
If Graham Coxon's last album, 2009's The Spinning Top, suggested that Blur's 43-year-old guitarist was ready to renounce rock and embrace middle age, its boisterous follow-up reaffirms his status as the oldest teenager in town. Gone are the ruminations on mortality and the elaborate, folky finger-picking; instead, as the boyish song titles indicate ("Ooh, Yeh Yeh", "Bah Singer", "Meet and Drink and Pollinate"), Coxon combines the spirit of early Blur with a hint of Joy Division and the pithiness of punk. Sophisticated it's not but, by and large, it's thrilling, the guitarist's zest for life evident throughout.
Camden has always been engrained in Graham Coxon’s DNA. Though now in his 40s and enjoying a relatively sedate life of sobriety, the fact that the Blur guitarist still spends time amongst the grotty havoc means he’s perfectly situated to see how it could all so easily come undone.On his new record, ‘A+E’, Coxon finds himself preoccupied with these ideas; the pleasure-seeking chaos and confusion that ensues when 5 o’clock on a Friday chimes in modern Britain. It’s a feeling encapsulated by closing track ‘Ohh, Yeh Yeh’, a blues song about meeting the devil at 6am on a Sunday in Camden town when you’re out trying to buy milk.
Former Blur guitarist continues to innovate on his thrilling eighth solo release. Camilla Pia 2012 He may be best known for years of exemplary service to Britpop, but it’s Graham Coxon’s art-rock solo efforts that find him pushing himself in the most interesting directions. And A+E is by far his finest work to date; a brilliantly inventive and majestically sprawling album which sees the multi-skilled musician take on a wry, Philip Larkin-esque role of the eccentric outsider, casting a cheeky eye over a very British kind of hedonism.