Thursday, January 22, 2009

Graham Coxon - "Spectacular" and "Freakin' Out" (2005)

Recently, I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with Graham Coxon's album by throwing it into my car's CD player and blasting it away.

Then by sheer coincidence, I was reading an interview with British guitar band producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur, Kaiser Chiefs, The Cranberries) in Tape Op magazine this week and he spoke at length about producing Coxon, adding he thought Coxon was the best guitarist he'd ever worked with, even Johnny Marr.

Coxon is probably the most unassuming guitar god out there because he doesn't fit the mold. No long waving hair, extended solos, covers of Guitar World, and posters hung up in boys' bedrooms. He just plays like a monster and listening to Happiness in Magazines is definitive proof.

Coxon was famous Britpop band Blur's longtime guitarist until he split during the band's 2003 recording of Think Tank. He looks like a huskier version of Elvis Costello, hornshell glasses and all, wearing a stylish tie and jacket. His early solo albums passed under the radar, but producer Street changed that all dramatically when they collaborated on the terrific Happiness In Magazines.

Not to be confused with Britpop except in its melodic catchiness, the album was an assortment of mid-tempo English bloke tales of dating, working and being forced to grow up. Coxon was clearly more driven by the Kinks, pop and punk, with a little sci-fi corn thrown in, none of it Blur connected.

Sharpening his songwriting and clearly working on his quite English vocals, Coxon came flying out of the box with "Spectacular," an under-three-minute charging ode to falling in love with a girl on the Internet, perhaps on a porn site? Riffs are pouring down everywhere, tom toms pounding the verses, and Coxon bursting into short wild solos after each insane chorus.

Saw you in my computer,
Never seen no one cuter,
Posing with a shooter,
You got me in a stupor.

You... are... something quite spec-tac-u-lar!

A mere five songs later, out he emerges again blasting with "Freakin' Out," moving so fast that you can feel the chaos of his life spinning out of control, tongue planted in cheek. Coxon goes even more nuts on this one, the delays on his vocals just adding to the effect. He knows how to make a good "pushing the car past the speed limit" song, and just rolls those raw riffs and solos off like a madman.

Filling the space between my ears,
Why don't you all just disappear.
With all your friends just way too dear.
You are foaming at the mouth,
You are mad without a doubt,
Cos I'm really freakin' out!

And I'm going out of my mind,
TV got me going blind,
And I'm really freakin' out!

These two songs seemed like cool musical bookmarks, so I'm featuring them both. First, here's the "Spectacular" video, with Coxon on what looks like a Rickenbacker 360, much like the one I own. "Freakin' Out" is all classic Gibson SG's, the famed "horn" shaped guitar, shooting from the gate like the frantic opening of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated."

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