It’s always been hard to pin down Graham Coxon in his solo work. Sometimes he’ll give us straight-up indie bangers, like on 2004’s ‘Happiness In Magazines’. At others, he’ll whirl through less radio-friendly fare and explore brave new ground, as on 2012’s ‘A+E’. Away from Blur, he’s also dabbled in creating scores for TV shows, like The End Of The F***ing World and I Am Not Okay With This.
The world of soundtracks is where his latest release ‘Superstate’ resides, although it doesn’t accompany something you can stream on Netflix. Instead, it’s an audio companion for Coxon’s new comic book of the same name, which collates 15 different stories of sci-fi “kitchen sink drama”, each with its own corresponding track. It’s an ambitious project but one that shines whether you’re consuming it with the graphic novel or, more likely, as a standalone piece of work.
‘Superstate’ technically isn’t credited to Coxon, as you would expect of the rest of his solo work. Instead, he is listed as a featuring artist, alongside a handful of female musicians. It’s a move that puts the focus on the stories the record contains rather than its creator, as well as placing his collaborators on an even playing field with him.
The tales found on ‘Superstate’ are curious and creative, and rather than distilling, the pages of Coxon’s comic are what inspired it. The record deals with a dystopian dimension that you’d like to think only exists in imagination but, in reality, is probably closer to home than we think; a place where society co-exists with robots as the planet limps towards death.
On the strutting ‘Only Takes A Stranger’, Coxon and Hejira’s Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne stand defiant against impending doom, cooing: “You won’t be hurting me / You won’t conquer me / There’s no controlling me.” ‘L.I.L.Y’, a rare solo moment from the Blur guitarist on this record that has a hint of latter-day Bowie to it, longs for a life outside of ‘Superstate’’s ultra-digital landscape. “I pleaded you to be human,” Coxon tells someone, later begging: “Recognise me for a moment / I know it’s you I’m programmed to.”
Musically, the album brings synths and electronics to the fore to create a wealth of buzzing, glittering disco-pop with an intricate prog edge. ‘The Astral Light’ sounds like a dusty gem from an ‘80s funk record flung far forward into the future via the elastic bassline of Blur’s ‘Girls And Boys’, while ‘Goodbye Universe’ is a stuttering homage to the sheen of ‘70s pop. Of course, at 77 minutes, ‘Superstate’ is a touch too long to keep your attention in one sitting but, it has fun trying to do so.
Label: Graham Coxon/Z2 Comics
Release date: August 27