by C. Familton
For many, Graham Coxon is inextricably linked to his tenure as guitarist in Blur but since his departure from the band a decade ago he has increasingly carved out his own distinct discography as a solo artist. His work has swung from the blues/folk leanings of Crow Sit On Blood Tree to the noisy thrash pop of The Golden D. The impression he has always given has been one of restless creativity, mood swings and a desire to master many forms. Now on the new album A+E he has lent his hand to the exploration of rhythm and repetition and the resulting collection of songs is his strongest release to date.
The album kicks off with the teasing riff-heavy Advice that could have come straight from the self-titled Blur album. It is a brisk and nimble start to the record but not wholly representative of what follows. City Hall is framed by a cold teutonic drum machine in the vein of Suicide and it is only Coxon’s unavoidably melodic vocals that brings colour and humanity to the song as it pounds on relentlessly with sharp edged guitars entering and exiting the track with almost random intent.
Coxon has also taken to incorporating more synthesizers into the songs on A+E. Most effectively they play a dominant role on What’ll It Take which uses jerky, scratchy guitars, LCD Soundsystem swirling electronics and Coxon repeating ‘What’ll it take to make you people dance’ with a healthy dose of irony embedded in his words. It is catchy as hell and sounds like he is having a blast exploring the shallow waters of dance music.
The metronomic beats that populate the album don’t necessarily restrict Coxon to any one style as he goes about creating metallic doom on The Truth, psychedelic post punk on Meet + Drink + Pollinate and a glorious Queens of the Stone Age noise on Bah Singer. One of the most interesting moments comes with Knife In The Cast, a creeping and creaking track that feels oppressive and tainted with bad vibes. Lines like ‘And out of the dark gravity scars the ground’ create tension and showcase Coxon’s ability to write music full of both light and in this case, dark textures.
To conclude the album on that downer, as rewarding as it is, would do it a disservice and so Coxon leaves us with the levity of Ooh, Yeh, Yeh that feels like a ray of sunshine after what came before it. Here he is at his British pop best with clever tempo changes, hyper melodic vocals and a touch of both glam and lo-fi in the sound of the music. That Coxon is still striving to cover so many bases shows he is still compulsively chasing his muse and not for one moment resting on his Blur laurels. Playing virtually all the instruments on the album also shows he is fiercely protective of his songs and quite rightly so as the world needs more inventive musicians like Graham Coxon.
this review was first published on FasterLouder