Coxon does the new blokey hokey-cokey
Graham Coxon A+E (EMI)
Talented guitarists who are central to a band can't always be relied on to shine as solo artists. Just ask Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood and Bernard Butler.
Graham Coxon, deputy head prefect in Blur, has turned out (unkind souls might say churned out) seven solo albums to a largely indifferent world. But it's as an on-off-and-on-again member of Blur that he remains best known.
His magpie artistic tendencies, that have include a bit of art rock, a smidgen of folk and a dollop of a lo-fi garage thing, have rendered his studio output less than riveting. He's also a fringe member of the Brit Art gang.
Mapping this album, Coxon adopted a curatorial approach. Eschewing fine guitar filigrees and cosy ensemble playing, he sought what he describes as "that cheap headachey thing" that can be arrived at through the "abuse of technology".
Clearly he's taken a lead from another art school chap, D Bowie Esq, who, back in the grim days of Iron Curtain chic, holed up in Berlin experimenting with studio gadgetry. Bowie wasn't first. The Germans already had a handle on the metal machine music critics dubbed Krautrock.
It's an interesting medium through which to express the terror of isolation and psychic pain. A stubborn Teutonic sonic expressionism. Think Angela Merkel and bad hair day.
It's adaptable, too. Like a latter-day Giorgio Moroder, Graham locates the pop values latent in a crappy old German drum machine.
Ooh, Yeh Yeh is a Rice Krispies chorus masquerading as Johnny Lennon's Cold Turkey. And quite jolly it is, too.
City Hall is built on a dominant hammering beat as a voice bleats from the end of a tunnel and the guitar recreates the sound of breaking glass.
"I don't know what's wrong with me," is the existential refrain on the repetitive groove What'll It Take (to make you dance), the nearest Coxon has come to having a solo hit.
But this is Graham from Blur. Welcome to the arty New Blokey Hokey-Cokey. HHHII