At some point in early 2008, before the first reconciliation curry was scoffed and the concept of a new Blur gig ticket seemed as likely as Calvin Harris eating a Solero without Tweeting about it, Graham Coxon sat in his Camden home, dug his fingers into his armrests and felt a monsoon of jealousy crash over him.
Why? Did he fear that however hard he tried, he’d never be able to perfect the stench of a home-made Stilton? Never gain a work-experience placement in a City law firm? Never design a team of cartoons named things like Noodle?
Nah. Far from being green-eyed about anything his soon-to-be-bandmates-again were up to, Coxon was listening awestruck to the records of ’60s guitar pioneer Davey Graham, the late Brit musician whose finger-picking was so impressive that today he’d insure his right forefinger for a sum that’d make The Pirate Bay court fine seem like change in a tramp’s pocket. Being a proactive chap, rather than waste time envying, Coxon picked up his guitar and taught himself how to damn well do it. So, what’s surprising about ‘The Spinning Top’ is that despite it being an album essentially born of a man learning a new guitar technique, it’s arguably the most consistently fine album of his prolific solo career.
More kickin’ back than ‘Freakin’ Out’, with lyrics that form a narrative about a man’s life from birth to death, album opener ‘Look Into The Light’ provides the perfect Christening. Coming on like a cross-legged Nick Drake, it’s a pure folk sweetness offering that could land in the middle of ‘Bryter Layter’. ‘This House’ boasts an equally enjoyable acoustic lurch, and ‘In The Morning’ is a butterfly-catching, understated burst of hippy-pop bedecked with tambourine shakes and Coxon’s gentle coo.
Considering that the first part of the album is such a well-realised homage to dusty folk, it’ll be a surprising delight for Blur fans to hear later songs ‘Dead Bees’ (slab-shifting Coxo crunches), ‘If You Want Me’ (screwy’n’dark Britpop guitar lines) and ‘Humble Man’ (irresistably catchy chords), which are acoustified cousins to ‘Beetlebum’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Coffee & TV’ respectively.
It’s sickeningly impressive. Yes, Coxon’s stormed through the Davey Graham Advanced Finger-Picking Guide but he hasn’t forgotten to flip it over and write some of his best ever songs. Kind of makes you jealous…