Last time Coxon released an album – 2009’s overlooked, if overlong, psych folk concept record ‘The Spinning Top’ – Blur were reforming and set to play a huge show in Hyde Park. And so history repeats for ‘A&E’. The timing might mean solo Coxon gets more attention, but it also devalues his albums to ‘side project’ status. Which is a shame, because his eighth record is about a hundred times better than the Rocket Juice And The Moon album will ever be.

Harnessing Coxon’s love of krautrock and weirdo collage rockers Chrome, the dirgey side of ‘A&E’, exemplified by the pounding ‘The Truth’, sounds somewhat like a collaboration between Silver Apples and The Stooges, with crashing guitars and feedback laid over burbling, metronomic synths. The strongest songs fully integrate his ‘Happiness In Magazines’-era pop chops with this darker sound, though – ‘Seven Naked Valleys’ features avant-noise crescendos, bleating saxophones and a mountainous, distorted riff.

It all still sounds like Graham Coxon, albeit a version who’s finally given his weirdo tendencies free rein without resorting to heads-down skate-thrash. In the red corner, the pop yob-disco of ‘What’ll It Take’, in the blue corner, the swampy drones of the misanthropic, murderous ‘Knife In The Cast’, and in between, possibly the finest Coxon album yet.

By John Churchyard

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