Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Review: Graham Coxon - A+E

 2012's proving itself to be a year of highs for members of Blur. The britpop heroes have had major performances from the Brit Awards (which was brilliant, I don't care what all the Adele sympathizers around me say) to the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, set to be the band's massive final show. As well, as that, frontman Damon Albarn's been gaining major praise with his entrancing opera Dr Dee and has seen his epic major-selling musical project Gorillaz end for now on a high note and has raised eyebrows in a positive manner with his further side project Rocketjuice and the Moon legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. As respectability for the Londoners truly hits an all time high, you'd imagine lead guitarist Graham Coxon might be feeling a similar sense of positivity to all who adore him so much. However, judging by the performance on his eighth album A+E, it seems as though Coxon's songwriting isn't penned in such a jolly state of mind at all.

 A+E finds itself rooted in a fairly bleak state of affairs where the tone on the likes of opener Advice and Bah Singer is encased in bitterness. Even on the songs that have a selection of hooks on offer like lead single What'll It Take are angry in their overall state of mind, as Coxon yells out "What'll it take to make you people dance?" and then providing a song that effectively answers his query. Well, I'd be disappointed if the song didn't cause some movement within you in some way.
 Coxon's musical craft is crucial for creating the atmosphere across A+E. While the kind of buzzsaw guitar riffs that gave Blur an extra sense of grime in their post britpop and more lo-fi based releases are a present feature, sounding perfectly grim and dirty on the likes of Meet and Drink and Pollinate and Running For Your Life, the atmospheric created from A+E's use of traditional synthesizers and drumbeats is also a prime features of giving the album an extra dark outlook. The electronics are raw and dirty sounding and it gives the songs an extra industrial thickness. The sound of City Hall and Seven Naked Valleys reveals this perfectly as electronic backdrops breathe heavily through steel plated teeth.
 That's not to say that atmosphere is achieved through electronics alone. The effect of the natural music is equally as gripping as The Truth with it's ominous tone and dirty rolling basslines reveals itself to be a furious anthem for the legions of dark lo-fi enthusiasts to pump fists to. Plus, the major wall of sound built up on Knife In the Cast effectively manages to be one of the most disturbing alt rock songs heard in a long time.
 So, it's grim; it's grimy and at a time of great positivity is surprisingly downbeat and it's a brilliant work of classic lo-fi indie rock come to life. Coxon has never really stuck to one definitive style of music and is constantly evolving throughout his eight solo albums, but this extremely raw and ominous release is a perfect setting for the dark and mischievous musical attitude that has made Coxon so well loved by Blur fans. It's an album where dirty punk riffs intertwine with haunting synthesized backdrops to create an atmospheric spacey sound. Simply, it's an album to be immersed within.

 Graham Coxon's A+E is out now via EMI. Coxon is on tour of the UK now and will tour in September with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

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