Graham Coxon Happiness In Magazines

[Transcopic; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: power-pop, indie rock
Others: The Eels, Syd Barrett, Pavement

While Daman and his cockney chums have run off to the less artistic but more commercial shallows of gloss-pop with their Oakenfoldian producers, Coxon has kept true to his vision. Moving forward from his simpler lo-fi and low key work which constituted his first four solo albums, the former Blur guitarist has finally embraced his creative freedom. Happiness In Magazines is one of the best garage rock hybrids to have been released since The Strokes hit it big. He rivals AC/DC cover band Jet with the opening fuzz-rocker "Spectacular" and the pop-punk "People Of The Earth," bests the White Stripes at their own blues molestation game on "Girl Done Gone," and gives The Shins a run for their psychedelic bubblegum-pop money with "Bittersweet Bundle Of Mystery." The album highlight is without a doubt "All Over Me," with Coxon's voice aching and a powerful string section that creates a simply moving piece of music, regardless of genre, that could've been the b-side to Beck's "Lonesome Tears" were one made. Although he had been dabbling with this little Transcopic project for some time, with the complete and justified dumping of his bandmates during their recording of Think Tank, Coxon needed to start taking himself seriously. He stepped up to the challenge and that effort shows in spades. The guitar work is his usual brilliance, his vocals are steadier (though still off enough to keep my Barrett resurrection fantasies alive), the production is richer, and the songwriting has improved. Check lines like, "you're pretty and you're tanned/ but I'd rather sleep with my right hand" ("Bottom Bunk") and "you used to think about magic and how to fit in/ now you think about madness and how to stay thin" ("Hopeless Friend") to see for yourself. Despite Graham's usual failed relationship material, Happiness In Magazines is a fun and uplifting listen. He goes so far as to end it with the soft-spoken "Ribbons And Leaves," which winds it all down to the chorus of "life, I love you," all is groovy, Simon & Garfunkle style! But if you listen real hard I swear you can make out a hush "Blur, who?" somewhere in the background.

1. Spectacular
2. No Good Time
3. Girl Done Gone
4. Bittersweet Bundle of Misery
5. All Over Me
6. Freakin' Out
7. People of the Earth
8. Hopeless Friend
9. Are You Ready?
10. Bottom Bunk
11. Don't Be a Stranger
12. Ribbons and Leaves

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