I’m not a huge fan of bands reuniting without a new album to promote. When The Chameleons reunited in 2000 and toured throughout the world, as fans we were treated to a new studio album (very underrated in my opinion), a live album, and two acoustic albums. More than I expected and each of those albums from that time period are very special and unique. On the flip side, when The Pixies reunited we were treated to a few songs that seemed to be demos for solo projects fronting under The Pixies name. Quality was sorely lacking (my opinion – some of my friends love those songs). A new album never materialized and each time I read about a new tour by The Pixies it makes me sad – hawking old songs to an aging fan base to support solo endeavors.
When Blur announced that their upcoming shows this summer would probably be the last we would hear from them, I breathed a sigh of relief. Few bands mean more to me than Blur with their string of albums and singles from the years 1991 to 2003 (yes, I love Think Tank too). When Blur reunited and put out a single track in 2010 (Fool’s Day – it is brilliant) I was curious to see where this would go. No new product from Blur has appeared and they are treading on dangerous “Pixies-ish” territory with each passing year. Curiously in the midst of the recent proclamation about once again ceasing to be was the news of releases by Damon Albarn (singer of Blur) and Graham Coxon (guitarist).
Damon Albarn’s post Blur exploits have been well documented – several albums with Gorillaz, a one-off (?) with The Good, The Bad, & The Queen, a solo cd that consisted of demos (Democrazy), several collaborations of world music, and an opera. Chances are that if you didn’t like the current Damon Albarn associated record, you would just have to wait 6 months to listen to one that you did. If you don’t enjoy 2012’s Rocket Juice & The Moon just wait a few months until his solo record Dr. Dee comes out.
Graham Coxon on the other hand has steadily released solo albums since 1998 while he was still in Blur. Each record has continued Coxon’s exploration of experimental guitar music and in most cases sounds more “Blur-like” than Damon’s projects. Consistency can be a double-edged sword, however, and Coxon has somewhat of a cult like fan base in the United States (let’s be honest – a lot smaller than Blur’s fan base). This should hopefully change with the release of A+E – Coxon’s most rewarding solo album yet.
A bit about the music
The album opens up with “Advice” a song laced with feedback and noise with melody – a perfect start to this record. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Blur’s self titled album OR Wire’s Chairs Missing. Favorite lyrics to this one: “I wrote a new song (while I was touring) / Man, it was no fun (totally boring) / Don’t think of singing til you see the white eye / Turn up the fuzz and dull your senses ’til the morning”
“The Truth” has Graham Coxon working in the post-punk vein. Reminds me of the band Magazine or even Wire (in their darker songs). A feeling of dread permeates the song, heavy and fuzzy sounding. Also one of the best songs I’ve ever heard by Coxon. Noisy as hell. Lyrics are also very dark – this really wouldn’t fit on any Blur album “Get to know about the truth / Say goodbye the future has no you / Wasted people in a wasted world / An empty promise and a flower girl / Didn’t know about the truth / Didn’t know how it could get to you”. Stunning.
“Running for Your Life” is another noisy number with Graham apparently singing through a megaphone. More of a pop-punk feel with this song. Music has a very strong melody tied into the chorus “Get back down the M1 ’cause we don’t like you / We don’t like your accent or your northampton shoes / Get back down the M1 ’cause we don’t like you / Prefer a pint of bitter and a bag of glue / Get back down the M1 ’cause we don’t like you”
“Ooh, Yeh Yeh” – the pop single to close the album, oh Graham is such a silly man. The song starts off with a similar beat to “All the Children on Crack” by Television Personalities. The music has charming vocals and really catchy music to match it. Perverse way to close an album (most artists would front load the album with a song this strong). Reminds me of of mid period Blur (Parklife). Guitar comes in over top of everything else around 3 minutes in to remind us that this is a Graham Coxon song, not Blur. Nice.
Highly recommend this record, even if you have never heard any of Graham Coxon’s solo records. This is not an album “by the guy who was / is / was again the guitarist for Blur”. This is an eccentric, noisy masterpiece of an album by a talented musician. Well done. Your move, Damon.
Verdict: Blur coming into focus
For fans of: Wire, Magazine, The Chameleons, Blur, Television Personalities
2- City Hall
3- What’ll It Take
4- Meet and Drink and Pollinate
5- The Truth
6- Seven Naked Valleys
7- Running For Your Life
8- Bah Singer
9- Knife On The Cast
10- Ooh, Yeh Yeh