Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top (Transgressive Records)

With the Blur reunion imminent, notably as a quartet for the first time since 2002, it’s worth noting that Graham Coxon’s seventh solo album is more on a par with his earliest solo work – the arguably-diversionary acoustica released as a side project during the 13 era – rather than his more recent, more FM-friendly material. Is such melancholy material an insight into his Blurtime mindset? A dose of distraction, perhaps? Or merely an earnest demonstration of one man’s musical endowment?

A lengthy, quietly-epic album of simple, understated innocence, The Spinning Top tells the story, quite plainly, of a man’s life from birth through to death. Perhaps on paper not the most immediately-engaging narrative, yet the unassuming vocals and simple melodies twinkle along, complementing to the tale to incredible effect.

There’s a clear theme on display throughout The Spinning Top, with the overriding milieu one of stillness and subtlety. Gentle whispers of guitar pervade each track, and while accusations of repetitiveness are likely, they’re nullified by what Coxon is aiming to achieve – the seamless flow of the album is key to the tale being told.

That’s not to say the individual songs don’t carry their own identity, even if it is difficult to discern at first listen. The eight-and-a-half minute lullaby of In The Morning refuses to stray from its hushed country fayre blueprint, while Caspian Sea displays a dizzying resonance, peppered with intentionally-clumsy wallops of cymbal. Elsewhere, If You Want Me and Perfect Love each begin life as a sombre strumalong, before making way for, respectively, a bluesy galumph and an effervescent indie masterpiece.

The simplicity and agelessness of The Spinning Top, coupled with Coxon’s unobtrusive sincerity as a vocalist, make it an album that achieves far more than its minimal components would initially suggest. For a concept album, particularly one with such an austere, unembroidered story to tell, it’s gloriously unpretentious stuff. On the strength of The Spinning Top, that Blur reunion can wait a bit longer.

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