It seems remarkable that Blur first split ten years ago. Since then, Damon Albarn’s various manifestations have kept him in the spotlight, so too I guess for Alex James if you’re into cheesemaking! Graham Coxon, however, has pretty much stuck to the original cause, yielding him considerable respect amongst his fellow musicians and indeed axe merchants Fender themselves, who have named a guitar after him!
Here then is solo album number eight and, following the acoustic folky jaunt on ‘The Spinning Top’, it’s back to the rock…or is it? It opens that way for sure, with ‘Advice’, a song that would have sat neatly at home on ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, but then things start to take a bit of a twist.
Never over-expressive by nature, Coxon has gone for something of an experimental approach and the title sums up the kind of response it might attract. The production is purposely stripped back and lends a primal feel to proceedings. There are elements of krautrock on songs like ‘The Truth’, where the repetitive drone gets inside your head and, whilst it generally remains in the rock arena, there are occasional tamperings with dance beats. Then on ‘What’ll It Take’ we are treated to a delicious pop tune complete with Eighties throwback keyboards.
What one quickly realises is that this is an accomplished record. Coxon does his Mike Oldfield bit by playing all the instruments and he’s prepared to take a few risks. They don’t all necessarily come off, but the man has the credentials to get away with it. Instrumentally as tight as you might expect and his songwriting abilities have flourished. Whilst there are hints here of a progressive transition, there’s enough antidote to suggest the next set won’t be his ‘Kid A’. To end on a note of irony, Coxon drifted away from Blur during the making of ‘Think Tank’, an album that was to mark a transitional shift for the band into a similarly progressive arena.
Whether that was a notion of Coxon or Albarn, one never knows, but ‘A+E’ represents a finer modern contribution than any of the other Blur boys….unless you count Farleigh Wallop cheese of course!
Words by TC