Just to get this out of the way, I’m a huge Blur fan.
If you were to ask me, “Chase, who do you think was the greatest UK band of the 90’s?” I would respond, “Blur, hands down.” So, when Blur’s lead guitarist, Graham Coxon, left the group after the stellar alternative freak out album 13, I had abandoned all hope. I took out my frustration on Graham for a few years, cursing his name for taking the band I loved away from me. It wasn’t until 2004’s Happiness In Magazines that I put aside my childish feud and embraced Coxon’s solo work. His solo albums are well-executed blend of folk and Blur-esque garage rock. Which showcases that Blur is as much Damon Albarn as it is Coxon.
But this isn’t about Blur, this is about Coxon’s latest album, the devastatingly beautiful The Spinning Top.
Coxon has stated that The Spinning Top is a concept album that follows a man from birth to death over the album’s 70+ minutes. Coxon does an astonishing job of bringing this man to life. Each song is a progression into a different time in the protagonist’s life. While the lyrics may not clearly display this, the music sure as hell does.
The album starts out on an extremely folk heavy note. “Look Into The Light,” “This House,” and “In The Morning” capture the wonder of being a child brought into a world. This is accomplished by expertly crafted guitar folk that harkens back to Nick Drake. The middle portion of the album mixes the folk in with more garage rock tracks, that sound like possible outtakes from the aforementioned Blur’s 13. This is where the album can get a little long in the tooth. Occasionally, I feel like I’m sitting out a man’s mid-life crisis. A musically forced Parklife, which can cause me to get a little restless.
However, the deep cuts of the album are by far the most interesting. “Tripping Over” is a powerful track that causes me to envision the protagonist passing on. This track is an engrossing number, that leads into the album’s closer “November.” And for maybe the only time in my life, I get to write that the album’s closer actually feels like a close. These two tracks really do draw you into the end of a person’s life. A sonic voyage across the River Styx that is something that I’ve never experienced in an album before.
Graham Coxon. Mission Accomplished.
The Spinning Top is definitely one of the most important albums of 2009. And, it’s certainly the most important album of Graham Coxon’s career. It is a powerful record that is brilliantly crafted, heartfelt, and I dare say…gorgeous. It may be a chore to sit through all the 15 tracks, but the payoff is unlike any other.
Graham, I welcome you with open arms. And it now looks like rest of Blur is here to join in on the group hug.