If the name Graham Coxon doesn't ring a bell, shame on you! In short, he is the former guitarist of Blur, one of my all-time favorite bands. Since his departure from one of Britpop's biggest groups, he has pursued a solo career that has resulted in a total of six releases. The multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and artist (yes, he paints) has released his latest album in the UK, and it is finally coming out domestically on October 31.
While some of his earlier solo material was hit or miss, Love Travels At Illegal Speeds is an absolute winner. From the opening chords of the first track, which just happens to be the lead single, "Standing On My Own Again" it is one of the strongest songs he has ever been a part of, including some from his days in Blur. It is power-pop at its absolute finest, moving along at a danceable pace with one of the catchiest guitar hooks you'll hear this year.
Coxon keeps up the pace with the punk-fueled "I Can't Look At Your Skin." Knowing that he played practically every instrument on the album makes songs such as this one all the more impressive. As strong as this album is, it is no wonder that Damon Albarn wants him back in Blur before they record a new album. Since that is pretty unlikely, at least we have Coxon's solo works to fill that void in our music collections.
Although a good chunk of the material is upbeat punkish power pop, Coxon doesn't shy away from more melancholy songs either. He slows down a bit with "Just A State Of Mind," a mellow tune that would fit with Blur classics such as the acoustic greatness of "Coffee & TV." Fantastic vocal melodies and a subtle horn section send this one into orbit. "Don't Believe Anything I Say" is another chilled out track, with slight touches of marimba and organ making it one of my favorites on the album. It is also one of the finest vocal performances he has given in his impressive career.
He plugs the electric guitars back in for "Tell It Like It Is," chugging along until it reaches an unbelievably lush chorus that sends chills down my spine. It is one of those moments of pure pop perfection; it really doesn't get any better than this. Another brilliant moment is the stomping rock of "You Always Let Me Down," a fist pounding tune with raw stuttering guitars and wailing organs that makes me think of a cross between the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Jonathan Fire Eater. Venting frustrations has never sounded so good.
Graham Coxon takes his listeners on quite a journey as he blazes through this album at Illegal Speeds. He touches on influences ranging from The Clash and the Buzzcocks to The Beatles and even Whiskeytown. Rock, punk, pop and country are all mashed together in his latest, yet this may be his most cohesive sounding album to date. Love Travels At Illegal Speeds is something that old school Anglophiles and indie kids can all enjoy together as the heart of Britpop lives on.