Tell It LIke It Is
Yes, breaking up is hard to do, but everyone knows the best revenge is living well - especially Graham Coxon. His departure from Blur six years ago was marked by Anglophiles as something that required a moment of silence, but out of this schism came something absolutely glorious: Graham Coxon's astounding solo career that has covered lengthy territory in the guitar trajectory only to land us in a place where Love Travels at Illegal Speeds. Hailed as his best album to date within the British music press, Love Travels at Illegal Speeds shows our Graham at his finest, replacing introspective experimentalism with taut, finely crafted melodies, astute arrangements and a truly strong voice, both literally and figuratively.Â
Produced by Stephen Street (who was responsible for Blur's Parklife and Modern Life is Rubbish), Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, Coxon's fourth album in the US and his sixth solo effort overall, is his most vulnerable, honest album of his career. After a stint in rehab battling alcohol addiction in late 2001, the album shows Graham with a renewed sense of confidence - the songs are reflective, focused and pushed Coxon to write about things with such a brutal openness that it startled even him when he was making the record. Most of the songs reference all the punk rock greats - because, if 13 taught us anything, it's that Coxon is most comfortable outside of the margins - so while there are some licks that remind you of the Buzzcocks or the Jam or the Knack, the melodies come right from the heart of the man we know and love, the man who helped define a new breed of British Pop music to a generation of music fans hungry for a voice. If this new album tells us anything, it's that his penchant for pop tunes is bigger than ever, creating choruses and harmonies that are instantly familiar and make you want to open your mouth to sing along. And if there's any question to Coxon's talent, look no further than Love Travels at Illegal Speeds: our hero plays guitars, bass, drums and sings every song on the album, in addition to creating the record's artwork. When a one man band sounds this good, who needs mates?Â
Opener 'Standing On My Own Again' is the album's calling card, a blistering slice of punk-pop that finds Graham alone - someone or something has clearly left him - but without all the lamenting; this is a man who is finally very comfortable with staying on his own two feet. 'Gimme Some Love' clocks in with two and a half minutes of guitar joy and Graham yelling in exasperation underneath a four chord guitar onslaught, while 'You and I' is a pop masterpiece, full of jangly guitars, a cranked 60's organ and some harmonized "la la la's" followed by one very sweet, breezy guitar solo. Elsewhere on the record, songs like "Don't Believe Anything I Say" and "Flights to the Sea" are vintage Graham Coxon, the sorts of acoustic gems that are lit from within by varied instrumentation (flute, vibraphone), spectacular vocal harmonies and discreet confessions that make us relate to our narrator better than ever.Â
And so, it is with great gusto that we say: welcome back, Graham! With one listen to Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, America will realize how much we've missed you.