Release Date: 17 May 2004
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
9/10 Adam Webb
Sit on Blood Tree
Release Date: 6 Aug 2001
|"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
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
Release Date: 12
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.
Sky Is Too High
Release Date: 10 Aug 1998
|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
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.