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Graham Coxon, A+E (EMI) ****
THANKFULLY, it doesn’t signal a renewal of the hostilities which made the Blur v Oasis circus so tiresome 17 years ago, but the solo work of the driving forces behind those two warring bands still illustrates how they occupied markedly different territories.
Noel Gallagher’s first release on his own has been greeted with noisy praise and, in some quarters, virtual worship – a bit much for a mature, solid but hardly startling album. Graham Coxon is well ahead of Noel on the solo front, but he’s never likely to elicit the same awed reaction and universal hype as his former adversary.
That probably doesn’t bother Coxon, but maybe it should make the rest of us think. Because, after a period of uncertainty and scrambling around culminating in the capable but dull folk of his last album, 2009’s The Spinning Top, Coxon sounds hungry and re-energised on A+E. And if he’s still clinging onto his youth, as the suburban-brawl tales on Running For Your Life indicate (“Get back down the M1 cos we don’t like you”), at least he’s making it convincing in a way Gallagher probably couldn’t.
The sub-Sham 69 thrash of Advice and Meet+Drink+Pollinate’s dire nod to Ian Dury aside, A+E is well-focused, menacing and unnerving, particularly on City Hall, The Truth and Knife In The Cast, while Seven Naked Valleys boasts the chunky guitar work Coxon still excels at.
A+E proves that, to paraphrase one of his ex-rival’s most celebrated songs, Coxon has taken time to make some sense of what he wants to say.