Five records into a solo career, and at last Graham Coxon's willing to admit, or remember, he used to be in Blur--y'know, a pop band. Up till now his output's been so impenetrably artsy-fartsy, full of slack-ass no-fi indie rawk and mopey country-blues, or what the kids call "unlistenable." I'd sell my copies of The Golden D and Crow Sit on Blood Tree to a used CD store, only I don't think there'd be any takers even at half off the import price tag. But this one's a keeper, not because it sounds like Blur (though it does, in spades) but because it sounds like a man who stopped running from his past long enough to catch his breath and reconsider his journey down Footnote Lane. Hence the collection of a dozen tuneful tunes produced by longtime Blur (and Smiths) associate Stephen Street; hence the nods not only to his past band ("Bittersweet Bundle of Misery" sounds like a wistful redo of "Coffee & TV") but also bands past ("Hopeless Friends" shakes like early Who; "Bottom Bunk" sways like mid-era Kinks). Coxon wrote everything and plays damned near every instrument. The only guests are a backup singer, a keyboard player and a string quartet, invited to add a little beautiful, rainy-day gloom ("All Over Me," "Ribbons and Leaves") to the blissful glam of songs that rock without rolling over and playing dud.
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