Happiness in Magazines [Bonus Track]

Happiness in Magazines [Bonus Track]

by Graham Coxon
     
 

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When he was still a member of Blur, Graham Coxon busied himself crafting solo discs that were exponentially more experimental than that band's work. Interestingly, now that he's a free man, he's grown considerably more fond of pop -- or, more specifically, first-wave punk -- structures. That's evident from the opening notes of the affablySee more details below

Overview

When he was still a member of Blur, Graham Coxon busied himself crafting solo discs that were exponentially more experimental than that band's work. Interestingly, now that he's a free man, he's grown considerably more fond of pop -- or, more specifically, first-wave punk -- structures. That's evident from the opening notes of the affably aggressive "Spectacular," which sets Coxon's tinnily recorded vocals over a chugging guitar to achieve a vintage 1977 effect. The more angular "Freakin' Out" exists in a similar space, but the stuttering rhythms and harsh strumming owe more to Wire than, say, the Undertones. Coxon is still good for a few curve balls, as evidenced by the lower-than-lo-fi "Girl Done Gone," which could pass for a Lou Barlow demo, and the brass-driven "Are You Ready," which sounds custom-made for an imaginary spaghetti western. He doesn't, however, lapse into revivalism for its own sake. Rather, Happiness in Magazines sounds like the work of a man who knows his rock history well enough to repeat it when necessary, and thumb his nose at it when that seems like more fun.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's suitably perverse that Graham Coxon released his first full-fledged pop album, Happiness in Magazines, in 2004, the year after his former bandmates in Blur tipped the scale in favor of the indie art rock he championed while he was in the band. Coxon always functioned as a passive-aggressive catalyst in Blur, pushing songs forward and twisting them inside out with his thrilling, fluid guitar. He was raised on the same British punk and pop as his former collaborator Damon Albarn -- the same stack of records by the Smiths, the Specials, and the Jam -- but he had an instinct to pursue a different path than prevailing pop culture, leading Albarn down the path to the Brit-pop of Parklife and the American indie pastiche of Blur and 13. On the latter two, he began singing his own compositions, soon stretching out to a series of dogmatically lo-fi solo records before leaving the band during the sessions for its seventh album. Blur continued down the willfully messy indie path with Think Tank, obscuring their songs with meandering arrangements, but Coxon's own contrarian instincts set in when he cut his fifth solo album in 2003: he turned back to guitar pop. He reunited with Stephen Street, who produced Blur's best albums, but retained much of the rough-hewn D.I.Y. feel of his solo projects for Happiness in Magazines, and the result is a wonderful fusion of ragged invention and sharp, tuneful songwriting. While the basic sound of the record isn't quite a surprise -- since Coxon still plays the bulk of the instruments, it does sound like a homemade record, but the songwriting recalls vintage Blur, so it also sounds familiar -- what is a shock is that Coxon has the confidence and will to not hide behind the noise and obscurist tendencies that made his previous solo efforts a bit laborious. Here, his emotions are pushed to the surface and they're married to catchy, memorable songs that are delivered in an immediate, imaginative fashion. This return to guitar pop doesn't feel like a retreat; it feels like a warm acceptance of Coxon's strengths, particularly because he hasn't completely abandoned the guitar squalls and unpolished production of his other four efforts. And that's why Happiness in Magazines feels like Coxon's first true solo album -- it's the first to present a complex, robust portrait of him as an artist, and the first that holds its own next to what he accomplished in Blur. [This version of the album includes the bonus track "Right to Pop!"]

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/25/2005
Label:
Astralwerks
UPC:
0724356038721
catalogNumber:
60387

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