Happiness In Magazines
Release Date:
17 May 2004

Coming Soon!!!
The Kiss Of Morning
Release Date:
21 Oct 2002

The most revealing thing about Blur has always been the side-projects. Strangely anonymous as a four-piece, it's only when striking-out solo that their true personalities have shone through. Damon the fame-chasing deconstructionist of Gorillaz or wide-eyed pupil of Mali, Alex the champagne-quaffing 'It Boy' of Fat Les, Dave the quiet pilot and Graham the lo-fi indie lost boy. Through more image changes than Beckham's hair, it's a wonder the cracks didn't come sooner than the guitarist's departure last month. 

Coxon always seemed the least at ease with the fame game. One of the 90s most underrated guitarists, he reluctantly played the likes of 'Parklife', while seeming happiest among the crowd at a Pavement or Fugazi gig. When Blur went "woo-hoooooo" American on '13', it seemed he had wrested Damon's mockney hand from the wheel for good. Now, five years later, Coxon says he no longer regards his former band members as friends. 

With this in mind there's every temptation to view his new album, and Coxon's fourth on his Transcopic label, as a sideswipe directed at his former colleagues. Barbed lines - "You stab me in the back/You're lower than a snake/Your brains are in you're sack/You two-faced f*cking fake" - run throughout and whether his target is Albarn or some spurned lover, the effect is mesmerising. This is clearly the rawest, most emotionally charged record made by a member of Blur, and it's also probably the best. 

Veering from the opener 'Bitter Tears' and 'Baby You're Out Of Your Mind', where he's redolent of Bert Jansch, to the Syd Barrett-style vocals of 'Escape Song' and 'Just Be Mine', Coxon sounds weary beyond belief. "You try the patience of saints and that's just what I ain't," he spits on the latter, the two-track recording only heightening the sense of honesty. Elsewhere is the blues groove of 'Locked Doors', the trundling country ballad 'Mountain Of Regret', that floats away on BJ Cole's pedal steel, and the venomous diatribe 'Song For The Sick' - a "two-minute tantrum about hate," says Coxon - which is up there with Lennon's 'How Do You Sleep?' 

Meanwhile, the killer denouement comes with 'Good Times', a desolate piano and steel guitar over the repeated vocal line "I want you to remember the good times." It's heartbreaking but extraordinary - a perfect epitaph for Blur and everything you read the Beck album was meant to be but wasn't. Best of all, no cartoon monkeys, super-fly budgets or guest appearances by Phil Daniels were necessary in the making of this record, and 'The Kiss Of Morning' is one of the best of the year.

9/10 Adam Webb
Crow Sit on Blood Tree
Release Date: 6 Aug 2001
Label: Transcopic

"Jesus, turn the racket down, is it really that time again?", an angry mob of music writers and enraged humans profane the world over, their ears sprouting cotton wool, their heads mummified by bandages. 

Yes, just 12 months since the last dispatch from Blur's one-man (albeit sulking) rebellion, Graham Coxon is back! The speed at which he works - this entire project was recorded and completed by Coxon in just two weeks - means that, unless Blur have an album in the pipeline, there is no hiding place, for him, or us, from the likes of 'Crow Sit On Blood Tree'.

And while it wouldn't be spiteful to suggest that once you've heard one Coxon LP, you've got the picture, his solo projects are viscerally entertaining, musically engaging, emotionally overwrought and wholly worthwhile. 

Written in a period of apparently monumental personal disruption - "a slow and noble breakdown of personality" ('Too Uptight') - Coxon's musical 'head' and horizons have shifted little on this, his third long-player.

So, you get the delicious, oceanic acoustic introspection of 'All Has Gone', 'Too Uptight' and 'Bonfires', which display not only the sublimely dextrous guitar-work at his fingertips, but also expose the limits of his charming but register sidestepping vocal range.

Equally charged, though more obviously, is opener 'Empty Word', which, in one track, sums up Coxon's solo work, as a distorted squall of twisted rage vomits from the speakers, a blinding light of rhythmic energy, amidst lines such as "life is hollow and absurd" and "I'm just such a freak".

Of course, and despite the rather life-changing arrival of daughter Pepper into Coxon's world, you also get a neat line in the bratty, unfathomable garage rock ranting that has been shot through his solo work, such as 'Burn It Down' and the frankly compelling 'Thank God For The Rain'. 

But, amid the familiar signposts of mental wreckage and axe havoc, Coxon has also imbedded an engaging penchant for keyboards on this album, particularly with the organ-fed (and aforementioned) 'Too Uptight' and 'All Has Gone' and the marching drone of 'Big Bird'. 

Ultimately, the whimpering then foot-stomping exorcisms of Graham Coxon's solo work are bound to enrage critics and others, as they disdainfully reject the frantic and supposedly pitiful outpourings of this multi-millionaire musician. 

However, for the rest of us who can appreciate that demons are not evacuated from a precariously unhinged head by financial nirvana and critical blow-jobs, there is as much to be embraced in this as in any of the Gorillaz material. If not more. 

8/10 Ben Gilbert

The Golden D
Release Date:
12 June 2000
Label: Transcopic

Dad? Damon? Diana? Alas, the D in question refers, somewhat prosaically, to the chord, so we can ditch any hopes we might have held of Graham Coxon: Enigma In Expensive Skatewear, and concentrate instead on the rather more obvious business at hand. Namely, that the 32-year-old millionaire skateboard fanatic and celebrity little-boy-lost Blur guitarist has again nailed his hardcore post-punk colours to the mast, and hammered them a great deal harder than he did on 1998's decreasingly memorable solo debut 'The Sky Is Too High'. 
If that album suggested that here was a diffident man with several Fugazi bootlegs, a week's worth of studio time and his own record label, then this one articulates a similarly keen sense of desperation and general bafflement with the modern world as 'expressed' by yer bloke on his skateboard whose girlfriend is expecting their first child. Fatherhood looms: quick! Document feelings on record! There might never be another chance. Question it all later. 

You could call 'The Golden D' a vanity project, but then you'd have to qualify it with sharp Wildean wit: for it paints crudely and schematically a portrait of the artist as messed-up, disillusioned, self-indulgent twerp with an unhealthy appreciation of the mid-'80s US guitar underground, whose demo-quality doodlings (Graham plays, sings, produces and paints everything. And all to a rather average standard) should probably have never seen the light of day. But such is the likeable lo-fi allure of Coxo, and such is the man's straightforward professional competence, that most of his record is, well, it's alright. If he'd taken his time, who knows? It might've been listenable. 

Just as the amateur psychologist could have a field day with several of Graham's song titles ('The Fear', 'My Idea Of Hell', 'Fags + Failure', 'Leave Me Alone'), so the delivery and execution of said songs says a lot about their author's state of mind: basically, this is regressive, sinewy, sub-'Song 2' nihilist grunge, cathartic and disposable. Music for jumping down flights of stairs to on your skateboard, and little else. More interesting are 'Satan I Gatan' and 'Oochy Woochy', the former a streak of sampled glitchmanship and malevolent riffage, the latter a playful exercise in slippery jazz loops and hip-hop skiffle. Plainly, Coxon is enormously talented. But equally plainly, he doesn't really give a shit. 

So why should we? Maybe because this is musically fresher and contains more ideas than the last Blur album. Maybe because Coxon has dedicated a horrible thrash-metal track to his favourite skateboarder, Jamie Thomas. Maybe because he's covered, pretty amusingly, two songs by ancient Boston post-punks Mission Of Burma ('Fame + Fortune' and the excellent 'That's When I Reach For My Revolver', which Moby once did during his rock phase). But mainly, we don't care much either. This is Graham's thing. On occasion, he rocks hard. 

The Sky Is Too High
Release Date: 10 Aug 1998
Label: Transcopic

THE OTHERS WERE MORE predictable. Damon's solo album: a triple opus rock opera called Darren, the story of a deaf, dumb and asthmatic accountant from Colchester. Alex's solo album: ironic footie chants called 'Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go (Down Groucho's With Stephen Fry)'. Dave's solo album: the theme from Jimbo, but with more drumming.

But Graham? El Coxo Eclectico? 'Blur' was allegedly his album, a chance to smear his post-grunge vision across Blur's immaculate pop visage, to cake Damon's sheen with unsightly guitar sludge. So what would happen if you gave him his own label (Transcopic) and allowed him free range to record the album he'd wished 'Blur' could have been?

Brace yourselves. For here's his first solo opus for our enjoyment - a rough-edged and hairy-toothed beast, not so much the album's worth of 'You're So Great's that we hoped for, more the sound of one of Britain's most talented songwriters sticking his head in a bucket of chopped liver and moaning for 11 tracks. It's a record that trawls the depths of recording practices unfathomed outside of Lou Barlow's bedroom and never ventures within a thousand leagues of a 'real' producer. As though Graham, driven to distraction from playing 'Girls And Boys' once too bloody often, has taken a screwdriver to the innards of his guitars, crept into the Good Mixer toilets with a Dictaphone and a ruptured acoustic and knocked up an album of raw, ragged and rudimentary genius in about 15 minutes.

There's an inescapable whiff of artifice, however - the accomplished guitarist pretending to fumble his way through two-chord whiners like 'Me You, We Two' and 'R U Lonely?' with all the confidence of a geography teacher bashing out 'Kumbaya'; the interstellar tune craftsman writing songs less complex than 'Vindaloo' ('In A Salty Sea', 'Waiting'); the grown man writing his sleeve-notes in the style of a retarded six-year-old. The great and good unlearning their precious skills and pretending to be bollocks in a bucket, in essence. Scientists call it The Paul McCartney Busking In A False Beard To See If Anyone Notices Syndrome and it comes into full cringeworthy effect on 'Mornin' Blues', the record's abysmal cod-blues coda that was seemingly recorded under the studio on a one-string banjo. Ouch.

But no matter how much Graham tries to muffle, moderate or, in 'That's All I Wanna Do', bury his talent under a mighty avalanche of Dinosaur Jr effluent, he can't hide from The Tunes. 'Hard And Slow' is a wistful beauty, half Yo La Tengo, half Simon & Garfunkel. And 'Who The Fuck?' is a brilliant pastiche of Coxo's bandmates, a frantic fireball thrash of yob chanting, amphetamine gibberish and spittle, like 'Parklife' on a tequila rampage with a sharpened copy of 'Vindaloo' up its arse. Inspired.

If 'The Sky...' proves one thing it's that Blur are a weird but inseparable concoction. Damon brings the crux, Alex the class, Dave the clatter and Graham the clutter. Alone Graham's a maverick, dreamily scraping nuggets of blood from his record collection but unable to stretch far beyond it. Still, a bit more fi by and by and he'll fly, bleedin' high. 
Rating: 7

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