Review Summary: Golden Graham
Graham 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. His vice during these times was alcohol, and his ill-mannered consumption of it culminated in the in creation of 2001’s “Coffee + TV”; a genuine, heartfelt reconstruction of the hazy wreckage his life had become.
“Meet and Drink and Pollinate” could be construed as either a sly criticism of the life he left behind and the people who continue to indulge in it without him. His detailing of a man “working undercover in his bedroom” shows somebody entrenched but happy to have escaped. “Pollinate” is the key word here. It may indicate the drone-like existence acted out by those trapped in such circular events. Dig a little deeper, and soon we’re on the right path. The seemingly ceaseless repetition of the track’s refrain is dizzying, seeming more frantic as time goes by. The essence of drone is what Coxon has managed to capture on this record. Though instead of sticking with the theme of suburban low-life characters, the drone is more evident in the music of A+E
With Paul Weller’s Sonik Kicks
providing a surprisingly fresh, enjoyable take on what an established artist can create, the onus will have shifted towards his contemporaries. Coxon has stepped up and dragged himself up and away from his previous folk-laden indulgences, instead blending some erratic and adventurous guitar playing with machine-crafted beats that call to mind the pioneering sounds of Kraftwerk. Opening track “Advice” sets the scene perfectly; abrasive, jerky, achingly lo-fi yet somehow catchy and addictive. “Bah Singer” is a loose and twitchy cut that chisels away at the ear, begging to be explored further with listen after listen. “Knife In The Cast” will have you scanning the liner notes for “Vocals by Damon Albarn” but this is all Coxon. Perhaps the Blur reunion did more good than simply line the coffers and spark some nostalgia after all. The song is a slow, ponderous and ominous number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Blur’s eponymous 1997 LP. Despite that, the record as a whole is underpinned with a sense of vitality, the sound of a man exploring his talent and potential.
…and yet, that shadow remains. The album’s title denotes panic, a rush, emergency. The cover, what seems to be a child’s knee bloody and scraped, implies a portion of innocence lost. “City Hall” lingers on this notion and is the darkest of the tracks on A+E
. It represents something akin to a rush of blood to the head, a chase through darkened streets. Driven by a fast, thudding electronic beat and lumbering, fragmented chords that appear unexpectedly it forces itself into a race to the finish. Four minutes of frantic build-up are followed by a sudden stop. Like the song’s imaginary protagonist, it leaves you breathless.
Coxon’s creativity was the force that carried the Blur
LP and it’s a wonder that it took him so long to return to a similar sound. A&E
is a record that has the propensity to entice fans old and new across the genre spectrum. His is a clean bill of health, no medication required. Never one to rest on his laurels, his next release after A&E
could be a defining one for him.