Graham Coxon: Fibbers, York: Monday January 16

Graham Coxon: Fibbers, York: Monday January 16

King of Camden on the cusp on making it big gives exclusive showcase of loved-up new album

“I’ve lost my fashion sense,” remarks our hero, totally unprovoked. He so obviously hasn’t. Looking cute as hell in a T-shirt with the letters C-H-E-R-Y-L pasted across the front, you could, in fact, argue that Graham Coxon’s style, and his substance, have never been more in vogue. Before leaving Blur, his solo records were a staunchly lo-fi side project; since, they’ve been bittersweet bundles of pure pop that have earned him national treasure status in their own right. Inspired by the breakthrough of The Libertines and The Strokes, Coxon also found he shared the art-school aesthetic of a new wave of British bands like Bloc Party and Franz – who Blur themselves inspired. Since last year’s ‘Happiness In Magazines’ Graham Coxon has been at the heart of the British alternative music scene, playing impromptu gigs with Pete Doherty and befriending young bands, making him a kind of Camden Town Peter Pan. He’s about to become a lot bigger than that.

Tonight Graham Coxon plays this unfeasibly small venue to showcase tunes from his forthcoming album, ‘Love Travels At Illegal Speeds’. It’s a concept piece about love, dealing with everything from infidelity (‘Don’t Let Your Man Know’) to rejection (‘You Always Let Me Down’). New single ‘Standing On My Own Again’ makes the girls dance: it’s breathless, pounding and dedicated to being dumped, with Coxon flashing puppy eyes at the crowd and singing with a verbal shoulder-shrug, “Just don’t wanna see it going down the pan”. ‘I Can’t Look At Your Skin’ is as unapologetic as a Tourette’s sufferer at a sponsored silence, while the guitar part during ‘I Don’t Want To Go Out’ sounds weirdly reminiscent of The White Stripes’ ‘Blue Orchid’. The new songs point to a more confident Graham – heavier, poppier, faster.

The set is peppered with shuffling Coxon-isms – apologies, mumblings, rambling stories about Simon from Popworld and an array of blinking, winking, smiles and raised eyebrows. After the barrage of new stuff, ‘Freakin’ Out’ inspires a moshpit, ‘Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery’ is met with a roar of approval and live staple ‘I Wish’ is so loud it goes some way to explain why there’s a sign alterting the audience to the availability of ear plugs at the bar. And why people are actually wearing them.

Tonight Graham Coxon is a love cheat, an old romantic and an agoraphobic. And it’s clear these die-hard fans love him for being Graham Coxon, despite being a generation removed from the original Britpop brigade. By far the best song of the night is another new one, set closer ‘Gimme Some Love’. A lyrical bastard love child of Oasis’ ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ (“We’re a right pair you and I/It’s a messed-up situation”), Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘I Predict A Riot’ (“Can’t stand the crowds on a Saturday night”) and, indeed, Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’, it’s a wide-eyed, raucous, stomping two-minute pop plea which has the whole of Fibbers jumping around like it’s already a smash hit. It’s proof that 2006 could be the year Graham Coxon stops shuffling around Camden and realises he’s got better fashion sense than he thinks.

Cat Goodwin