Saturday, 7 April 2012

REVIEW: Graham Coxon - A+E

With his eighth solo outing 'A+E', Graham Coxon's solo career has now produced one more album than that of his career so far with Blur, and while many saw those early solo albums as an exercise to distance himself from the mainstream success of his iconic band, his last few records have seen him simply exploring his love of various different genres and sounds. Following on from the largely acoustic 'The Spinning Top', this time around Coxon turns his attentions to angular post-punk, new wave and Krautrock while adding plenty of his own characteristics. It's dark, dirty and possibly his grittiest work to date. 

Hyperactive opener 'Advice' is Coxon at his best, bashing out a infectious punk riff and sounding like someone who is clearly having fun, before the spacious 'City Hall' moves into darker territory, the relentless rhythm recalling the Krautrock grooves of Can and the guitars revisiting the claustrophobic ambience of Joy Division. 'What'll It Take' offers simpler pleasures in the form of an irresistibly catchy hook, freaky Devo-like keyboards and guitars that sound like bombs dropping before the chorus, until building into a noisy tantrum of a coda. The Devo influence is at the forefront of the jerky android swamp-punk of  'Meet And Drink And Pollinate' which like much of this record explores Coxon's love of arty post-punk, while the grubby snarling dirge of 'The Truth' dips back into doomy grunge but loses its appeal about half way through due to its length.

 It's certainly not as good as the standout 'Seven Naked Valleys', which produces another infectious riff along with a most satisfying Blur-esque verse and a loping hypnotic rhythm, while the chugging verses of 'Running For Your Life' are full of excellent Coxon guitar trademarks but soon lead into a yelping ill-fitting chorus. 'Bah Singer' is not unlike a more lo-fi Queens Of The Stone Age, and also sees Coxon briefly slipping into a classic rock guitar hook following the chorus, an uncharacteristic surprise indeed. 'Knife In The Cast' is the album's most settled moment, built on a slow, grinding bassline and distant vocals, but what it gains in terms of space makes it lack in the way of excitement, melody and in this case, quality. Luckily the brilliant 'Ooh Yeh Yeh' is there to finish the record on a high, with a melody again recalling the cool desert-rock of QOTSA and a laid back Pavement-like vibe, but covered in more than enough Coxon guitar for you to know who it is. 

As one of the album's most tuneworthy moments, it rounds off a slightly inconsistent but mostly enjoyable record that should please many fans of the Blur guitarist's solo output. But while some tracks don't quite hit the mark, it's certainly no exaggeration to claim that at least four of these songs represent some of this man's finest and most instant moments yet. Like the seven solo efforts before it, perhaps overall quality control comes second to Coxon's instincts and his desire to offer an undilated version of his musical vision, but also like those previous solo albums there are plenty of things to love about 'A+E'. 7.7

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