You should know all about the Graham Coxon story by now. One time guitarist with Blur, Coxon took his leave when he decided he felt too old to be in a band. There was also the small matter of the relationship between Coxon and Damon Albarn being at an all time low.
Coxon's career then went off at an entirely contrary angle, and to some degree it mirrors that of Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante. Like Frusciante, Coxon released album after album of self-penned tunes, most of which were willfully obscure and could easily have been filed under uneasy listening. He also took his interest in art to a new level, exhibiting his pieces in exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (the short set he played there is included on this DVD).
Of course we know how the Frusciante story ended up - he rejoined the band that pushed him to the edge. Right now there are whispers that Coxon could be considering rejoining his old band too. However, when you hear his latest album Happiness In Magazines, and look at the performance put in on this DVD, you really would have to ask what the point in going back would be. Coxon is obviously enjoying the freedom of a solo career, and it shows in his music and his performance.
This DVD was shot on the Happiness in Magazines tour at Oxford's Zodiac venue. It's small in comparison to the places Blur were filling out, but that lends itself to a more personal film. Every guitar lick is covered beautifully, while Coxon himself is clearly relishing being on stage. He may well be known for presenting a quiet, shy persona, sulking in the shadows like a petulant schoolboy, but when he gets on stage the change is total.
Gone are the considered, all too knowing, song structures of Blur. Instead, many of these compositions are dyed in the wool slacker fare. It's likely J Mascis would be proud of several of these tunes. Over the years, Coxon has developed a set that is so tight it squeaks. There are fourteen songs here, and not one of them constitutes filler.
All the bases are covered from Pavement-esque college rock such as Freakin' Out and Spectacular, through the blues of Girl Done Gone and the gentleness of I Wish. The beautiful All Over Me (almost a sister song to This is A Low) reminds you that Coxon is one of our most gifted songwriters, able to create a punk rush one moment, and then break your heart the next.
As a live DVD this is fairly standard stuff, so there's nothing here that will totally stun you production wise (except for the fact that Coxon's steadily flat vocals haven't been fixed). But the strength of the songs and the performance of the band is rock solid, and that alone makes it worth a look.
The addition of the acoustic set at the Contemporary Arts Exhibition is of limited interest but shows off Coxon's ability to knock out some good old blues licks. Meanwhile the addition of three videos from Happiness In Magazines helps to add a bit of value to the package. That'll be Happiness in DVD then.