Graham Coxon - Happiness In Magazines
Alex Worsnip 17/05/2004
The confusion continues. Who was the pop one in Blur? One would have always assumed it was Damon Albarn, but now Coxon returns with an accessible, tuneful album that sounds like Parklife gone punk. Christ. His previous solo efforts have been highly disappointing, so hopes not too high for this one. He's not helped one bit by the fact that his voice is barely distinguishable from Albarn's, and this is in evidence on album opener 'Spectacular', a drivingly catchy punk-pop anthem with big, silly guitars and a "Britpop" aesthetic. Unfortunately its an all too dated sound, despite a fair amount of bounce, chiefly due, again, to the Mockney vocals.
First single 'Freakin' Out' was genuinely unexpected: a 1977-style punk track where the Mockney vocals sound less Britpop and more Johnny Rotten. And strangely enough, its pulled off, though its clearly not exactly a revolution. 'People Of The Earth' opens like King Crimson, before exploding, again, into an almost punk-metal style. Full marks for unpredictability; but if this wasn't Graham Coxon, it would be significantly less interesting, despite some enjoyably inane lyrics: "you ain't cool/you eat hamburgers and go to school!" Coxon even experiments with blues riffing on 'Hopeless Friend'. He's back on more familiar territory on closer "Ribbons and Leaves", a piano-driven, ramshackle indie-folk ballad, and particularly on the "Coffee and TV"-esque strum of 'Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery' (Coffee and TV, of course, was originally sung by Coxon - not that you'd be able to tell from the vocal similarity to Albarn).
Overall, this album is surprisingly eclectic, and has a certain personality to it, but lacks much originality or any particular fantastic melody, and is not going to be an album remembered for years to come. As Blur plough on towards unchartered territories, Coxon seems worryingly stuck in the past, and although this is, after some dire efforts, his closest to a good solo album, he still isn't there yet.