Graham Coxon - Love Travels at Illegal Speeds

What started life as a side project is now very much a full time career for Graham Coxon, now onto his sixth solo album. And he is very much on his own, choosing to play pretty much everything on this record. For the second time though, he has handed production duties over to long-time collaborator Steven Street, who was responsible for producing some of the best Blur had to offer. And with there being seemingly no hope of Coxon re-joining his old band mates, all eyes are on him to see if he can deliver.

This is the first release to have the full might of Parlophone behind it - Coxon has now closed down his own record label, Transcopic, which means goodbye to the funky little card sleeves and hello to standard plastic. It also means the first thing you see when you open the album is a cardsheet telling you where you can get Graham Coxon ringtones for £3 a pop. But nevermind, what about the album itself.

Previous albums by Coxon have always had a very different feel to the one before, but this is very much in the same territory as "Happiness in Magazines". Steven Street's fingerprints are all over this, a surprisingly polished album - excellent production, with none of the lo-fi gave the older albums that interesting edge. There is little of the acoustic experimentation that marked out songs like "I Wish" on "The Sky is too High" and pretty much all of "Crow Sit on Blood Tree". For me, it is the acoustic, more laid back interludes on "Love Moves.." that work best. "Just a State of Mind" is wonderful, with a laid back, relaxing feel, Graham gently strumming with a lazy, shuffling backbeat. It is very good indeed, better in my mind that the standard, sound-a-like punk rock moments.

Forthcoming single "You and I" is also a highlight, a cracking little pop-song, which whatever way you look at it sounds very much like Blur. It features an excellent echoed guitar solo, organ pumping beneath it. Debut single "Standing on my Own Again" works less well, possessing none of the immediacy of previous singles like "Freakin' Out". "I Can't Look at Your Skin" I just find annoying, opening like a poor Ramones.

Best songs I think are the milder, more downbeat numbers. Here Coxon's skills as a songwriter really come to the fore. "Don't Believe Anything I Say" and "Flights in the Sea (Lovely Rain)" are both wonderful, with excellent production from Street and some really nice touches. Closing number "See a Better Day" is also very good indeed, a slow burner that gradually builds up strength to a fine finish.

Coxon has hinted that there was quite a lot of material left over from recording this album, and that a slower, folk-centred album may also be due this year. I welcome this - the faster, garage band number do all start to sound the same after a while, whereas the slower numbers are the ones that really stand out on this album. This is a mixed bag, with some fine moment, but just a little too much of the noisy stuff.



out of 10
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