x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Graham Coxon's latest album reveals fire in the belly

The songs hurtle along at rapid fire pace, the solos whiz by and the riffs are as inventive as they are forceful.

Graham Coxon
A+E
(Parlophone)
****

It seems Blur's recent reunion gigs have revitalised the guitarist Graham Coxon. After seven remarkably consistent albums, which saw him swing from raw lo-fi to jangle pop, you would have understood if the tank was beginning to dry out. Instead, with A+E, the nerdy guitarist shows he has even more fire in the belly. The album's front cover showing a scabby knee is apt; A+E is a scruffy affair. The songs hurtle along at rapid-fire pace, solos whiz by and riffs are as inventive as they are forceful. In the noisy opener Advice, Coxon is laconic as he reflects on life off the stage: "I wrote a new song while I was touring / Man it was no fun, totally boring." From that relatively straightforward beginning, the album takes on a more experimental feel. Krautrock and post-punk are the dominant flavours here. The sweaty City Hall neatly combines a repetitive refrain with jagged guitars. The Truth sounds positively menacing as Coxon's seemingly other-worldly vocals float over a stringent bass line before relief is fleetingly found in the chorus's guitar explosion. Coxon allows some sun to seep in, however, with the psychedelic folk of Ooh, Yeah Yeah's. Meanwhile, Running for Your Life is a sharp, witty tirade against bullies of all sorts. "We don't like yer haircut or your attitude," he mocks. "Get back down the m1 cuz we don't like you." Despite A+E's droll humour, Coxon reminds us why he is viewed as one of the best British musicians of his generation. Meet+Drink+Pollinate is a tour de force, as Coxon (who plays nearly all the instruments) adds jazzy elements to his new-wave synthesizers. It really shouldn't work, but it just does.

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