Graham Coxon, The Golden D (Transcopic/Caroline)
Much like the Blur guitarist’s last solo outing, Graham Coxon’s new album, The Golden D, is a noisy affair. On it, Graham mines hardcore and industrial terrain more thoroughly than ever before. Though nothing ever quite reaches thrash-pace, the opener “Jamie Thomas” (an ode to Graham’s favorite skateboarder, the press packet tells me) comes close. The surging metal-tinged guitars and drums pound through the song and subside only slightly during the verses to make room for Graham’s distorted vocal. The second track, “The Fear” continues the ruckus with a more punk rhythm and vocal. Graham reaches quite successfully into the territory of punk bands from the 80s who blended punk aggression with heavier sounds. This homage is evident in the two cover songs chosen by Graham for The Golden D. Graham covers two songs by Mission of Burma, “Fame and Fortune” and “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver.” Each is brilliantly executed and instantly memorable.
A handful of the tracks here are experimental instrumentals. “Satan i Gatan” is an slab of industrial noise driven by a grinding drum machine and looped guitar noise. “My Idea of Hell” is another industrial track and though it features the same distorted vocals of the punk tracks, the vocals function more as instrumental texture than sung melody. “Lake” takes some cues from the shoegazer movement of a decade ago with distant drums, spacey clean guitars and the build-and-release technique so popular with the bands of that era. The song eventually builds to a guitar soaked climax and trails off into feedback. “Oochy Woochy” is probably the strangest thing Graham’s done. It’s something of a funk song.. well, something of a Beck-funk song. The only voice shouts, sings and speaks the words “oochy woochy” while guitars and horns play around in the mid-tempo groove.
An immediate highlight of the album is “Fags and Failure,” another punk rocker which burns through chugging guitars with gleeful abandon. Along with “The Fear” and “Jamie Thomas,” the song is a welcome punk anthem amidst the sonic chaos. All three songs are in the vein of “Who the Fuck?” off Coxon’s last solo record.
“Keep Hope Alive” is the only completely acoustic song on the album (strange only because Graham’s first solo record was heavily acoustic-based) and reminds the listener that in addition to playing the Lennon to Damon Albarn’s McCartney, Graham is perhaps also the Syd Barrett of Blur. The last track, “Don’t Think About Always,” is the only other to begin softly but soon it pounds and distorts like the rest of the album.
Obviously any album written, performed, produced and released by one person is going to have its share of self-indulgence. The Golden D has tamed some of the indulgence of its predecessor, The Sky is Too High, yet still remains a thoroughly Coxon affair. It’s tempting to look at Graham’s two solo releases as reaction against every album Blur has made (especially the Stephen Street years) since they are so far removed from his Brit-pop band’s polished sound. Graham is an ingenious guitarist and his solo records are just the sort of records one wants to hear from a member of one of his favorite bands. The songs are completely different from Blur’s, but they are very personal and give the listener a more complete portrait of a man whose work in his “other” band will certainly stand as some of the greatest British pop of the late 20th century. As essential as Blur’s music is to capturing the zeitgeist of Brit-pop, The Golden D is to understanding one of Brit-pop’s most important players. It’s also a damn fine album for any fan of articulate, angular, noisy punk.