Graham Coxon - Sorrow’s Army

Martin Goodhead 22/05/2009

Rating: 2/5

Graham Coxon is a poseur. Honestly, he is; there he goes, shambling away in interviews with his over-sized glasses with that naif-air, like a burbling turps-soaked ex-roadie, despite being off the juice for the last 8 years. Yet, not more than a couple of years ago, he goes and pens a perfectly sensible stunt-foreward to Herman Hesse's 'Narcissus and Goldmund', the cheat.

Coxon may (still) glide around on his skateboard, in his ripeness sporting a trucker cap or raccoon hat or whatever the sham-09 fashion is in wildest Camden these days, and ever replete with the kind of petulant ripped jeans effect only 'Angry' Steve Albini gets away with but our Graham's also the best guitarist in Britain who doesn't think he's conjuring up dragons. Or indeed in Dragonforce. Sadly the man's song-writing is, in direct exponence to critical worship, prime mince when the Damon's ego, Alex's hips and Dave apparently aren't there to bully him into beastly brilliance. The exception being those brief freak moments in past years when he whined like a Colchester townie locked in a petrol-saturated fiesta and walloped his guitar with the brutal (billy) childish nuance of a baby Berliotz on a Fisher Price space-moog.

As for 'Army' it's a bluegrass slice of the kind of ramshackle heavy-lidded spunk and spite-less mess that recent collaborator and fellow professional slurrer Peter Doherty can at least continually blame on his dealer and an inherent knack for the worst high-lyricism since Jimmy Morrison—plus at least He's never tried an Appallonia mountain accent either. Cover 'Sorrow' in aural soil and rust, and you could sell it to Uncut's compilers as classic revivalism. Already, amidst the expensively tinny forgery of a production, it contains expert woodblock clomp percussion as fashioned by retreatist hippies at Ruby Ridge and whittled by one-eyed pan-handler tourist suckers with beards resembling Kris Kristofferson. A man who could do pastiche-country.

A magical five seconds of it sound like metal-pick scraping cave-wall of sound, or a slow-mo distant bugle in the abyss; threaten to transmogrify the whole business, acquire deep vibes- call it continual Blakean war at man's heart, a Setting Son -era Jam imaginative reflection on past historical agonies in this concept album of his. Coxon's analogies suddenly sound less like the ba-ba rhymes which usually happen at any point where his songwriting doesn't deal with spelling out his evening routine like some Chancey Gardner/reality contestant savant and more like Barretian bitter-sweet observations. Then you trace back the play of imagery and-- find out it's a celebration on how sorrow's army was defeated--he might just as well have had a cup of milky tea for all the profundity contained within.

Which will be it's most prized virtue.