He’s apparently never been happier now that his band Blur have booted him out, and Graham Coxon’s third solo album is upon us to help explain why.
The Essex boy guitarist’s voice, first heard in anger on Blur’s You’re So Great, has always been surprisingly similar to that of Damon Albarn‘s – a low-down, drawling expression of all that is melancholic and reflective. It’s finely suited to the miserablism of many of the songs here. Titles like Bitter Tears, Mountain of Regret and Escape Song are indicative.
And yet this is an album of contrasts. Locked Doors, which he describes as “a groove more than anything else,” sounds like he’s hired in Jools Holland‘s band for some funked-up jazzy late-night play time, but Bitter Tears and It Ain’t No Lie are pure Blur territory, full of buzzing, messy guitar noises, down-in-yer-boots vocals and downright sleazy production.
Elsewhere, Just Be Mine, with lovely Hammond over an infectious beat and repetitive refrain, stands out, but not quite as much as the spectacular Do What You’re Told To, featuring Transcopic labelmate Louis Vause, who plays Fender Rhodes, Hammond and piano throughout the album. The combination of Coxon and musicians of the calibre of Vause creates a mesmerising and rarely heard down-and-dirty atmosphere – and with a chorus of “Even though you’re pretty / you’re looking pretty shitty” dominating the lyrics, it just flies.
Song For The Sick is described by Coxon as “a two-minute tantrum about hate,” and is as angry as this not quite so young man gets here. It sits at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the curiously Country directions of certain other songs.
Live Line, Mountain of Regret and Latte are all the kind of songs Kenny Rogers would like to sing, with Coxon’s trademark buzzy guitar taking a coffee break while a jangly acoustic takes over for some chord-strumming. And album closer Good Times could easily have graced the latest albums by Tram or The Montgolfier Brothers with its ethereal arrangement aided by BJ Cole‘s lap steel guitar echoing over Vause’s introspective-sounding piano.
In all, Coxon has made it obvious with his third album that he’s considerably more than a guitarist with his own record label. The Kiss Of Morning is an album that’s movingly personal and full of musical surprises throughout, and confirms him as an important artist in his own right. It’s hardly easy listening, but if you’re feeling melancholic or angry, or both, you’ll love it.