Graham Coxon

Happiness in Magazines (EMI)

SXSW Records

Graham Coxon

Happiness in Magazines (EMI)

Fear! Loathing! Acrimony! It's been two years since Graham Coxon's old outfit Blur headlined a packed-to-the-rafters SXSW showcase at La Zona Rosa, and the bile between former bandmate Damon Albarn and Coxon has finally receded (a bit). At least it's off the front page of NME's Web site, thankfully replaced by the exhilarating barrage of guitarist Coxon's newest, a far superior offering than any of the four solo outings he's coughed up before. There's nary a clinker in the lucky 13 here, all of them considerably more polished than what's come before, fewer lo-fi barrel-scrapings with the occasional pearl amidst the dross and more toe-tapping indie rock shouters. Single "Freakin' Out" is what the late, great John Peel used to call a barn burner, a four-on-the-floor, angsty opus that's as instantly memorable as anything in his former band's back catalogue, while "People of the Earth," with its distorted ranting and stop/start pace, recalls nothing so much as the Fall circa 1980. Produced, oddly enough, by Stephen Street (no stranger to Blur), Happiness in Magazines is a huge stride forward for Coxon, who here seems to have jettisoned his scattershot aural experimentation in favor of meaty melodies that actually stick with you. Even the bastardized spaghetti groove of "Are You Ready?" comes clean and proper and as memorable as a Leone fusillade. Ball's in your court, Albarn. (Thursday, March 17, 11:15pm @ Stubb's)

***.5

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