Graham Coxon is a sorely underrated musician. For those of you who haven't heard of him, he was the guitarist it the Brit-Pop band Blur until the album Think Tank, where he quit after one song of the album (The song in question being Battery In Your Leg). Before he even left Blur he was releasing solo albums, but it wasn't until he left Blur that his true talent was unleashed to the public. His first taste of the top 20 was with his signle "Freakin' Out" which was released October 25, 2004. He is back this year with the full length LP, "Love Travels At Illegal Speeds."
TRACK BY TRACK
1) STANDING ON MY OWN AGAIN
This is the first single from the new album, and a great way to start an album. Guitar hits to kick it off with a pounding drum beat. The overall tune is quite upbeat, with an punky somewhat indie kind of feel. Quite a simplistic track, but it works, and it's a great new-old sound from Coxon (by that I mean it sounds new, but there are still the old Coxon style markings to it)
2) I CAN'T LOOK AT YOUR SKIN
This track comes in fast and furious, with a definate punk feel to it. The chorus lines ("I can't look at your skin / cuz it's doin' me in") are really effective where the whole band stops playing for the lines and come in with stabs in between. Nice melodic solo givs it a great touch.
3) DON'T LET YOUR MAN KNOW
Starts off with a bass rumble, although this track and the previous are the same tempo which can make it almost seem as if it were the same track. Some very interesting ideas like the lead up to the Chorus with some 60's style gutiar work. The chorus melody is very cool, with a harmony backing it up. The "rotary" guitar solo is a nice touch, adding to the 60's feel of the track.
4) JUST A STATE OF MIND
A slower acoustic track which brings the pace down a lot, which again sounds like 60's movie music. Not really my cup of tea, but can see what's good about it. A little too long and slow for me, but it's deadly awful
5) YOU & I
Second single from the album. Back to the electrics, with a catchy hook and some nice maraca work on the intro. Upbeat and some nice harmonies make this track great. This track reminds me of the previous album's "Bottom Bunk" (the album being Happiness In Magazines). The Phaser'd solo is creative, although whether if fits is another thing. Generally good track.
6) GIMME SOME LOVE
This is possibly my favourite track from the album, just because of the passion and the energy. This definatly owes to 70's style punk like The Descendants and The Buzzcocks. Very simple song structure, but it works really well. Coxon's voice goes with this track very well, although some harmonies would have made it more interesting. The solo is great, melodic yet energetic. Brilliance in a 2:32 bubble.
7) I DON'T WANT TO GO OUT
Starts with a cool riff although sounds slightly out of tune (more on that later), and the drums work well with the guitar stabs. The build up to the chorus is a real contrast to the verse and helps to give the track the energy. Another high paced track for the arsenal, although the break in the middle is a little unessessary, because it could stop there quite happily, or a link (maybe feedback or something) would have made the transaction better.
8) DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING I SAY
Back to acoustic tracks, and this ones the longest track on the CD, so it's easy to understand it does get a bit tedious, although the track is fine in itself. To me, it's just a kind of regular album track.
9) TELL IT LIKE IT IS
More palm-muting, although the chorus is very catchy, with some more great harmony work, it's just the guitar work here which is disapointing. Even the short lived solo can't save the guitar work from the already visited places it treads.
10) FLIGHTS TO THE SEA (LOVELY RAIN)
Upbeat, quite beautiful acoustic track follows, and it's quite a welcome break from the previous two tracks. Features some interesting instruments like a saxophone add to the track's texture. Not much else to mention really.
11) WHAT'S HE GOT?
This is definatly 60's themed, just hearing the intro makes you wonder where Austin Power's is.... Not really, but you get the picture. Again reminds me of "Bottom Bunk" but the solo screeches from the speakers, and soon after we get a mouthorgan solo which is a cool thing to hear. You can also hear some slide guitar, which is a really well thought out sound.
12) YOU ALWAYS LET ME DOWN
The 60's returns again, with some crazy keyboard moments. The main verse riff is two chords, which complement it well. THe maracas return for another shaking, and they fit very well. In fact, the only thing that doesn't really fit hear is the vocals. They just seem a little out of place on this track. Crazy solo, with is trademark "screaming" sound.
13) SEE A BETTER DAY
This track is the ultimate closer for a great album, going from soft acoustic, to electric, to harder electric, right down to soft again. Some nice vocal work, and definatly a high point for a great album.
Firstly, a comment about the overall album. A reoccuring theme on this album is the tightness yet the sloppyness of the recording. The recording is tight, but there are moments where the guitar tuning can cause cringes. On some tracks it's not so noticeable, but it's most noticeable on "I don't want to go out". This does detract from the riff, but it's not overly improtant.
Overall, this is a great collection of songs, and there would only be a couple of songs I would have changed or edited, but that's just my preference. My main gripe with the album is the lack of anthems. On the last album, "Freakin' Out" was a powerful, punky and overall great track, but on this album, I just can't see any track that matches it. Apart from this, it's a great album, and if you liked Happiness in Magazines, you'll like this.