Graham Coxon : The Kiss Of Morning

Fourth solo LP proves there is life after Blur...

There are few mountain ranges in Camden, nor is the Mississippi delta known to mingle with NW1’s canals, but on the fourth solo album by Blur‘s semi-estranged guitarist, geography is no impediment. He’s taken ‘The Kiss Of Morning’ further into the old American South and deeper into beardy folk cellars.

On ‘Baby You’re Out Of Your Mind’, dusty acoustic picking and ultra-trad cadences lead into lonesome whistling. It’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ re-configured as a London love song. Then for ‘Mountain Of Regret’ Coxon slips on metaphorical dungarees for a country ballad, complete with pedal steel from BJ Cole and a bassline worthy of the Soggy Bottom Boys.

No doubt there’s an element of defiance in ‘Britain’s most inventive guitarist’ going retro. Perverse or not, it’s a tribute to his abilities that he makes it work. His wavering voice stops the ballads descending into cliché. Then, as if having claimed his right to reject the narrow world of rock, he U-turns haphazardly, flinging forth the fuzzed-out ‘Do What You’re Told To’.

‘Kiss…’ sees Coxon oscillate between rage and a need to confront a long list of emotional damage. The 13 songs bounce between his love of punk/grunge and his affection for folk/blues, and perhaps they’re best where the two mesh into an urban hobo style that mixes elements of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Pavement, Sonic Youth and Nirvana. ‘Bitter Tears’ ascends from acoustic introspection into a fuzzily enveloping groove. ‘Escape Song’ coaxes muffled psychedelia out of the olde amps. The slouchy ‘It Ain’t No Lie’ finds him haunted by Britpop, “Wandering around Camden Town feeling like a fishy in a can”, a problem which he resolves with a burst of neo-Hendrix guitar. If the final acoustic confession ‘Good Times’ represents one too many moments where the dark mirror calls, it’s entirely forgivable.

‘Kiss…’ operates on a level of perversity, honesty and originality that blows most bands out of the water. With a warmth that’s almost anti-Gorillaz, this is both a Primrose Hillbilly fuzz-rock album to cherish and an auspicious manifesto for a post-Blur existence.

Roger Morton