Graham Coxon - A&E Album Review
According to Damon Albarn, the Olympics' closing mini-festival at Hyde Park will be the last public outing for Blur and this time he means it (maybe). Still, the four-piece hardly went into hiding after their initial split in 2003, with the darling of budding English indie guitarist throughout the country, Graham Coxon, hardly stopping for breath after the group's initial break. A&E is his eighth solo record; his fifth to come after initial ties with Blur had been severed. With A&E, Coxon show us that you really are as old as you feel and despite being 43, the album still heaps on the feeling of teenage angst and pent up aggression with the typical punk-garage aesthetics he has so often generated in the past although, once you scratch away the surface, you soon see that there is much more than your average garage band set up on show on the album.
A&E could hardly be more different from his last release, 2009's folksy The Spinning Top, with Coxon incorporating programmed sequences, drum-machines and even the occasional frenzied guitar riff. Coxon has obviously been rediscovering his 70s record collection; there's a huge chunk of Krautrock on display throughout the album with tracks such as 'City Hall' and 'Meet + Drink + Pollinate' sounding equal parts Kraftwerk, Can and Magazine. Singling out these two tracks actually feels a little unfair as Coxon really does flex his muscles throughout the album, taking the average Blur or Coxon listener to places they may have never been before. Sure, some of them are unlikely to go back there but that's their loss as you'd have to be some kind of fool to not appreciate what Coxon is doing here. Gone are the sensible pop styling of Blur's heydays, here instead is a barrage of asymmetrical rhythm techniques and a brave sense of experimentation all washed down with a healthy dose of old school electronic equipment.
Like a child at a birthday party whose sugar rush is peaking, the album is unrelenting and forever changing direction. The punk rock ethics of album opener 'Advice' and 'Bah Singer' are soon replaced by spacey synths of 'What'll It Take' or the menacing, octave-driven 'Knife In The Chest.' Erratic, yes, but you do get the overwhelming feeling that Coxon knows exactly what he wants to make and what he's doing.
At times, the album can be a little over-bearing if you are experiencing it all in one sitting through headphones, but you can't help but think that maybe this is the kind of brutality that Coxon was after. Like with Grinderman, the overall sound is a behemoth of noise, with changes in pitch and instrumentation coming at you from every direction on each song. One thing that is for sure, the album is never boring and neither track tires after multiple listens. Be sure to have the volume turned down some way if you are planning on multiple listens, however, your ears will suffer if you choose not to.
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