Graham Coxon

A+E

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Snapping out of his folkie fixation, Graham Coxon returns to the fractious guitar skronk of his early solo career on A+E. There's a world of difference between the honed propulsion of A+E and the unformed sketches of his early works: there's plenty of mess here but it's purposeful, sometimes threaded into a steely stiletto, sometimes hanging off the song skeletons like shredded entrails. All the noise comprises sonic brush strokes; it's part of the way Coxon paints his aural picture, and where he was delicately impressionistic on The Spinning Top, he's splattering paint on the canvas here, creating bright, messy, modernistic art. But A+E is not a willfully alienating record -- there's giddiness in its cacophony, in how the guitars grate against the Teutonic rhythms, and the album is hardly an exercise in raw, joyful noise. Beneath all the clatter, A+E has the pop punch of his pair of Stephen Street-produced mid-2000s masterworks Happiness in Magazines and Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, and the combination of precisely crafted pop and fiercely imaginative arrangements results in a thrilling listen.

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