Album: Graham Coxon

Happiness in Magazines, Transcopic
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The Independent Culture

Previous Graham Coxon solo outings have featured mostly grim acoustic strumming and self-pitying mockney mumbling, punctuated by the occasional burst of distorted punk guitar - all recorded in a pointedly rough, lo-fi manner, as if any greater care would constitute a betrayal of some righteous indie aesthetic. Perhaps chastened by desultory sales and a diminishing profile, Coxon has changed his tune for Happiness in Magazines, which was recorded under the droll working title of No More Mr Lo-Fi, with the former Blur producer Stephen Street ensuring things were kept clean and listener-friendly. The change is evident from the opener, "Spectacular", which bursts in like vintage Wire or Ruts, with a vocal delivered with what almost amounts to gusto. Pains have been taken with the arrangements, too; Coxon's basic strum'n'drum augmented in places by Louis Vause's keyboards and even strings. The results are mixed - "All Over Me" has the vulnerable appeal of a minor Lennon solo piece, while the alien's-eye critique "People of the Earth" resembles a Fall rant-rocker, albeit lacking Mark E Smith's distinctive sleight of phrase. But there's a fair amount of pedestrian riffing and several songs have a scolding, killjoy tone that tends to put a damper on one's enjoyment. Still, at least it sounds like he cares this time.