Graham Coxon - A+E

Coxon’s most accomplished solo album to date.

Rating: 9

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. It’s a mirror image of what life could be like.

After the acoustic, conceptual (and excellent) ‘Spinning Top’, ‘A+E’ is a louder and more extreme record in every way. It’s an album that focuses on the excesses of this island and his neurotic response to it - with music to match. Produced by long-time Blur cohort Ben Hillier, there’s a frenetic, dark pulse beating through these songs that makes for the best type of record.

This is Graham Coxon at his most uninhibited and confident. Both more rock and more experimental than anything previously released as a solo artist; he weaves together unexpected reference points such as Kraftwerk with slightly more familiar post-punk ones; this is a rough-around-the-edges tour of Coxon’s sonic wanderlust.

It begins in familiar enough territory. The stop-starting, headache ridden rock of ‘Advice’ with its self-deprecating lyrics - “I wrote a new song while I was touring / Man it was no fun, totally boring” - is both great and totally Graham. What follows is very un-Coxon though – ‘City Hall’s’ motorik beat, spidery guitar and the ghostly repeated refrain of ‘Going down to city hall’ could be Neu!. It’s brilliant. 

From here the album accelerates away, diverting down thrilling side streets and making several handbrake turns along the way. What’s surprising is how much of this album focuses on rhythms and drum sounds. Single ‘What’ll It Take’ is almost dance music - who would have thought we would ever be saying that?

This is the sound of the weekend filtered through Graham’s skewed pop sensibilities. ‘Running For Your Life’ shows he’s lost none of his arch wit  (“We don’t like your haircut or your attitude / Get back down the M1, cos we don’t like you”), while the caustic observations on the UK at chucking out time continue with the gonzo robo-pop of ‘Meet+Drink+Pollinate’ (song title of the year anyone?) and the macabre blast of ‘Bah Singer’, with its police sirens and accelerating keyboards that speed up until they implode.

As with every weekend of excess, we get the Sunday morning comedown. ‘Knife In The Cast’ is the sound of regret and Alka-Seltzer; a hauntingly perfect accompaniment to Coxon’s most accomplished solo album to date.