While Graham Coxon may never escape the stigma of being so cruelly kicked out of the band he helped take to the top, he has been a busy bunny ever since. Happiness In Magazines is his latest effort in a prolific spell of songwriting stretching all the way back to 2000’s The Sky Is Too High.
As usual, good old Graham wears his influences on his sleeve. These days they are more easily identified, perhaps because of the distinct absence of a certain mockney monkey. The album as a whole sits between Elvis Costello and an upbeat Paul Weller, with more specifically familiar sounds in No Good Time (Preston School Of Industry) and Girl Done Gone (sounding uncannily like Pavement‘s Half A Canyon).
The introvert eccentricities shine through lyrically and vocally, with styles ranging from highly-inflected, near-spoken delivery to some strange country and western stylings. This is no Mali Music, however, and everything is kept clean and simple. The extended solo from current single Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery (or Coffee And TV part two) is perhaps the only self-indulgence on show, because more often than not, Graham maintains a confident but sincere tone, using it to tremendous effect.
Coxon would appear to have matured on certain tracks (All Over Me is beautifully rich, Ribbons And Leaves is a tremendous slow-burner), and the album’s appeal lies largely in these tracks’ juxtaposition with more upbeat efforts (Freakin’ Out belongs in another decade entirely while Bottom Bunk is a genuinely amusing tale of a squabble and subsequent huff). As it turns out, the producer of Happiness In Magazines is no other than Stephen Street, who was responsible for Parklife and The Great Escape, arguably Blur‘s finest moments back in the day.
Happiness In Magazines is all too happy to meander down familiar roads, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it remains a friendly and entertaining prospect, easy to get into and immediately rewarding. If there is any justice in the world one would expect widespread success and critical acclaim for this brash and confident set of pop songs. Who needs to experiment anyway?