Album Reviews

The Waeve – The Waeve

(Transgressive) UK release date: 3 February 2023

Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall’s new project is languid, hypnotic, meditative… and full of saxophone

The Waeve - The Waeve This year is shaping up to be a very busy one for the various members of Blur. As well as the much anticipated reunion shows in the summer, Damon Albarn has a new Gorillaz album coming out, while Dave Rowntree has just released his first solo album as well as performing incidental music for a range of TV shows. And Alex James is probably making some cheese somewhere.

It’s Graham Coxon though who’s taking arguably the most interesting solo steps. The Waeve is his new project, a collaboration with his partner Rose Elinor Dougall, one time Pipette and now solo artist in her own right. For anyone familiar with Coxon’s usual punky squall, or Dougall’s more polished indie-pop, the results may be surprising.

There’s a LOT of saxophone, for one thing. It’s an instrument that Coxon has long been proficient at (he played sax on early Sleeper single Vegas, for example), and it’s one of The Waeve’s defining features. And considering they have very different vocal styles, Coxon and Dougall’s voices blend well together. One of the album’s most dramatic points comes on the opening track Can I Call You where her croon gives way to his anguished exclamation “I’m tired of being in love, I’m sick of being in pain”. It’s quite the way to open the record.

Elsewhere, the results are surprisingly quite languid. Several tracks top the six-minute mark, with the album’s centrepiece becoming quite the epic – it sways softly, with big string sections and Coxon’s saxophone barking away, with Dougall’s voice sounding ever more impressive as the song goes on. Over And Over sounds almost slinky as it slowly unfolds over its six minutes, and it’s one of the tracks where Coxon’s saxophone works really well.

Coxon and Dougall do mix things up a bit as well though. Someone Up There is two and a half minutes of knockabout punk, and Kill Me Again has a majestic strut to it. Generally though, the pace is measured and deliberate – sometimes, this doesn’t work quite as well, such as All Along, whose doomy folk starts to sound a bit drawn out over five and a half minutes.

Often though, the effect can be surprisingly hypnotic. Undine, the longest track on the album, has a gorgeous string arrangement, with plenty of lyrical imagery involving the sea and the shore. It’s reminiscent of Richard Hawley‘s more long-form moments on Truelove’s Gutter, and Coxon has never sounded more fragile when singing lines like “oh love, you’re hard to leave”. He’s never been the most technical of singers, but his naturalistic approach can be incredibly affecting.

The album comes to an end on two big ballads – Alone And Free is stunning, a beautifully arranged ode to being single, while You’re All I Want To Know has the opposite sentiments, which sounds like the last dance on the last night on Earth, as saxophone, guitar and strings all collide to end the record on a high note.

This isn’t the Coxon of Coffee & TV or Freaking Out, nor indeed the Dougall you may remember from the perfect girl-band pop of Pull Shapes. Instead, it’s a mediative, often beautiful record that often has the capacity to surprise and delight. Just be sure you like saxophones.

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The Waeve – The Waeve