GRAHAM COXON – A+E (Parlophone)

I am about to admit something that a lot of people will consider heresy, but I have never really liked Blur. They are OK and have a few good tunes, but I can’t see the mass appeal, and so I was not that bothered when Graham Coxon left or when they broke up. What I did like, though, was Coxon’s ‘Freakin’ Out’ single, and so I bought my first Blur-related album when I got his ‘Happiness In Magazines’. As good as that was, it didn’t spur me on to get any of his next releases, as the reviews tended to indicate that he changed genres fairly often and they were not generally the raw indie rock that I liked. ‘A+E’, however, has been heralded as a return to the form of that 2004 album, and so I have just got my second Blur-related album. ‘A+E’ really is everything that I was promised, and right from the opening of ‘Advice’, with it’s grungy guitar riff and jerky delivery, I knew I would love it. ‘City Hall’ is a real throwback to DIY indie, with its drum machine, echoey vocals and minimalist composition – although luckily the spikey guitar is well in evidence. ‘Meet+Drink+Pollinate’ sounds like a Dalek doing karaoke over an effects-laden post-punk thrash, whereas ‘The Truth’ is a more straight-forward indie rock song, with an insistent rhythm and some intriguingly repetitive guitar-work. ‘Seven Naked Valleys’ is the song that sounds most like Blur to me, as it has a fairly catchy tune and a slightly commercial feel, but they would never be this ramshackled, and in cleaning it up it would lose a lot of its charm. ‘Running For Your Life’ is a jagged indie-pop tale of violence on a night out, and is Coxon at his most catchy and uncompromising at the same time, while the staccato guitar that punctuates the siren-infested noise that is ‘Bah Singer’ all helps to create a feeling of unease around this creepy little song. ‘Knife In The Cast’ has jets of guitar careering off at all angles from the relentless Krautrock rhythm, before it gradually coalesces into a squall of noise that Throbbing Gristle would be proud of, and you wonder how a 43 year old man is coming up with this stuff. ‘Ohh, Yeh Yeh’ dispenses with the distorted vocals and screeching guitar for a countrified mid-paced rocker, with a commercial edge and, for once, a restrained guitar solo. If he had to pick a single from the album it would probably be this track, but Heaven help anyone who bought the album because they liked this as they would be in for something of a shock when they heard the rest of it. If, like me, you have only tentatively dipped a toe into Coxon’s previous solo work then this is definitely one of his best efforts, and is an album you have to get. If nothing else, it indicates to me that when he left Blur a large part of the talent in that band left with him.