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Friday, Aug. 25, 2006
By IAN MARTIN
In mid-1990s Britain, Graham Coxon was the guitar hero of a generation. His band, Blur, were the epitome of Britpop, and his guitar style, fusing jagged, violent post-punk and melodic, melancholic '60s guitar pop -- along with frontman Damon Albarn's ear for a melody -- kept them ahead of their competitors.
Viewed as "the quiet one," set against the often obnoxious and always quotable Albarn, Coxon had already released three relatively low-key solo albums on his own Transcopic label before he split from Blur in 2002. What was most remarkable about his newfound freedom was how much 2002's "The Kiss Of Morning" and 2004's "Happiness In Magazines" harked back to his work with Blur, with both albums toning down the feedback and the latter even using former Blur producer Stephen Street. In 2003, by contrast, Coxon's erstwhile bandmates produced "Think Tank," their most experimental album to date. Meanwhile, Albarn has embarked on a varied program of musical exploration, from his "Mali Music" project, to the all-conquering hip-pop outfit Gorillaz and his latest band, The Good, The Bad, And The Queen that features Paul Simonon from The Clash and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums. These projects suggests that rather than Coxon being held back by his position in Blur, it was actually Albarn who was being constrained by Coxon.
Of course, Coxon's dependability is what differentiates him from his chameleonlike former bandmate. The generation of Britpop kids who idolized Coxon in the '90s have now grown up and formed their own bands, such as Kaiser Chiefs, and his new album, "Love Travels At Illegal Speeds," sees him confirm his position as some kind of elder statesman of British indie music.
Graham Coxon (supported by Detroit 7) plays Sept. 11 at Osaka Big Cat ([06 6362-7301) and Sept. 13-14 at Ebisu Liquid Room, Tokyo ( 3475-9999). Shows start at 7 p.m.; 7,000 yen, plus 500 yen drink ticket.