About the Gig
Our fourth Subculture - 100 Club gig - saw a packed house again. The On/Off's kicked off the night. These boys are still slightly 'under the radar' but will soon be household names - with a debut album produced by Bernard Butler (Suede) on the way - expect to hear them on your radio soon.
Everyone was warmed up for the guitar hero, and ex-Blur legend, that is Graham Coxon. Commenting during the sound check that it was 'really loud' - it was even louder in the gig! Graham played a blistering one hour set – and then deafening encores saw him play another 25 minutes. An incredible night for those who were lucky to experience a true guitar/indie legend in a 300 capacity club.
Back by very popular demand, Terry Hall (The Specials) delivered another blinding repertoire on the decks. And Graham and the On/Off's happily mixed with the crowd and chatted to fans to the end of the night.
"I'd like to get married and go and raise pigs in the countryside" says Graham Coxon nursing a coffee and a cigarette in a café near his Camden home. "Pigs and goats. But I don't know whether that's gonna happen".
Four years after parting company with Blur, the shy 36-year-old guitar hero admits that, right now, he likes himself more than he has done in ages. The former guest of the Priory has been on the wagon so long that he says it's more like a hovercraft these days ('a rather smoother ride').
The proud father has built a tremendous relationship with his five-year-old daughter Pepper ("if I'd been making records and touring with Blur, I just wouldn't have that"). And the richly talented musician's fifth solo album, 2004's 'Happiness In Magazines', bagged him four Top 40 hits, a ton of critical acclaim and the Best Solo Artist gong at the 2005 NME Awards. "A lot of scruffy kids seemed to like it" grins Coxon. "And scruffy adults too" Which brings us to 'Love Travels At Illegal Speeds', his sixth solo release. "I didn't set out to write a love album" shrugs Coxon. Perhaps not, but it certainly turned out that way.
As the predominant theme of the songs he was writing became apparent, Coxon decided to make an album that covered love, as he sees it, from all angles. So there's things about having crushes on people who aren't full of a lot of respect for themselves. There's songs about infidelity. There's a song about feeling quite inspired by someone who has a bloke already, and there's one about sadness and happiness when you first meet somebody. Then there's one about needing some affection and one about, "shit, are we gonna do this or not?" Then there's one about splitting up, there's a bit of a supernatural one and there's a really sentimental one that says all those hideously cringeworthy words about being so in love, but in a way that's very miserable rather than a jolly Girls Aloud way.
If those subjects sound brutally personal to Coxon, then you're getting the idea. He insists the songs aren't entirely biographical, but there's little doubting that they offer a window into his heart and soul. "I've been kind of shyly open about emotional stuff before.." he says. "...but I think this is a little more honest. Lyrically there's nothing coy about it. It's more of a carnivorous record, whereas my others have been vegetarian."
But if the lyrics often find Coxon with his glass, or coffee mug, half empty (in fairness, what else would you expect on a single man's album about love?) then his tune-writing side isn't much in the mood for moping. From the moment the glorious opening track 'Standing On My Own Again' lets rip with its almighty guitar hook, the album is characterised by the kind of glorious upbeat riffarama Coxon is so very good at.
There are moments of gentle, acoustic restraint, but with most songs recalling the unbridled power-pop of bands like The Jam, The Kinks, The Ramones, Weezer, The Saints and 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'-era Blur, it's an album no self-respecting indie-disco (or football highlights soundtracker) will want to be without. "I'm glad you think so..." says Coxon "...I still get very surprised when I hear my stuff. I'll be like - this is quite good! - Problem is, then I start worrying - fucking hell, I'll never be able to write anything like that again!"
Judging by past evidence, Coxon needn't fret. Like every solo album he's made, 'Love Travels…' shows a definite advance from the last one. The scratchy, half-finished ideas of the early solo albums he made while still in Blur are as much a thing of the past as his association with the band. Instead, his sixth album is also his most fully realised. As well as Coxon's peerlessly inventive guitar playing, these are songs bolstered by flugel horns and flutes, harmonicas and Hammond organs. "It never goes over the top..." says Coxon "but it is a bit more lavish"
Whether rocketing through a fired-up garage-rock rant like 'You Always Let Me Down' or softly unfurling a slice of woozy melancholia like 'Just A State Of Mind', Coxon somehow always manages to slip in a great, big slab of melody. "Mmm, I like melodies..." he says "I love how they can lull your brain and then send a story straight into the core of you" Which is exactly what they do on 'Love Travels At Illegal Speeds' - a love album that doesn't very often sound like a love album; a riotous, rifftastic blast with a particularly soft centre; an arrestingly impressive sixth solo album from a man who just can't seem to get his head around love. And did making the album help Coxon with that last problem? Alas, not. "Actually, it's just made me more confused" smiles Coxon. "Y'know I would like someone to share my life with, but it's all so very difficult. But who knows, maybe one day I'll bump into Lucy Liu in Camden..." Maybe he will. Until then, pig farming's loss is most certainly music's gain.
The Guardian 4/5
The casual observer might well have thought they had seen the last of Graham Coxon when he left Blur in "2002. For all his undoubted talent, the guitarist did not seem like solo star material. Throughout Blur's golden period, Coxon kept sending out subtle signals that the truly perceptive observer could have interpreted as implying a slight discomfort with celebrity, such as punching his record label boss, becoming an alcoholic and threatening to commit suicide at the party celebrating Country House's accession to number one..." Read full article
"One of the most abiding memories of Britpop, more so than Noel quaffing champers with a fresh-faced Tony Blair and more so than Jarvis' Jacko-baiting at the Brits, is Blur's performance of 'Country House' on Top Of The Pops. They were the victors of this greatest-ever chart battle: Damon Albarn avoiding the grasps of teenage girls, his competitive urges satiated, albeit temporarily; Alex James grinning at the thought of all the, "Oh, what a card you are!" comments his Oasis T-shirt would command that evening; drummer Dave Rowntree, er, drumming, anonymous as ever..." Read full article