My general Blur infatuation extends to Graham Coxon‘s solo work, whatever mood he’s in. I enjoyed the scratchy early efforts, leapt around shamelessly to the poppier pair and then fell deeply in love with his acoustic epic, ‘The Spinning Top‘. The man responsible for some of the greatest guitar lines in musical history cannot avoid cracking riffs and beautiful melodies, even when he is leaving the edges of his music unsmoothed. And he really is on ‘A+E‘, which from its cover inwards suggests an album that’s given up gently flirting and being nice and is now opting for the take me or leave me strategy.
‘What’ll It Take‘ lurches forward, all bleepy electro noises across the trademark Coxon chug and an especially minimalist lyric, largely asking “what’ll it take to make you people dance?” It’s hugely infectious, a little bit silly and utterly adorable. It is what we look to Coxon for and what he so often delivers perfectly. The guy in the skinny fit t shirt and the battered trainers to the right of Damon was always the manic, geeky indie kid and that passion for sound is present in everything he does. ‘A+E‘ is the closest he’s gone to his more abrasive sound in some time, but this is far from inaccessible. Just don’t have your first listen with it as background music. Let it wash over you, toy with your ears and draw you in.
Yes, you can pluck the odd track for a playlist or as part of an unimaginative shuffle, but this lot works best taken in one sitting. The substantial mid paced rumble of ‘Meet And Drink And Pollinate‘ beefs up the first side of the album, while ‘Seven Naked Valleys‘ is as good a start to the second half as most records have managed this year. Scuzzy horn sounds loop around an exhilarating mess of a guitars, bass and organ, while a drum pattern which wouldn’t be out of place on a funk 45 drives it all long. The old cliché that Graham was always pulling against Damon’s preference for pop melodies is one again dimmed here, with plenty of ‘A+E‘ proving to be thoroughly hummable. ‘Running For Your Life’, with its repeated “get back down the M1 cos we don’t like you” refrain, catches the slacker indie sound of the Nineties perfectly, sounding at once like a revered tune from that time. In a year when looking back at the majesty of Blur was once again a pleasure, Coxon has also manage to move forward in triumphant fashion.