Album Reviews: Happiness in Magazines (Bonus Track) by Graham CoxonWhile Graham Coxon was in Blur, his solo albums served as a lo-fi home for the material that wouldn’t work so well on a band record. Now that he’s flying solo full-time, his songs are tipping their hats more regularly to the Blur sound that he helped shape. Embracing a more polished and professional sound, he’s also working again with Blur producer Stephen Street.
The result? The good news is that Happiness in Magazines is full of giddy energy and puckish pop charm. Songs like “Spectacular” and “Freakin’ Out” are built on singalong choruses and unabashedly big riffs from Coxon that have many critics and Blur fans in full swoon. The stately, string-enriched “All Over Me” slows the pace down and is one of Coxon’s most fully realized solo pieces to date. Those who don’t know better may even mistake a few songs for the old band; after all, Coxon sings a bit like Damon Albarn. If there was ever a fear that Coxon would retreat from commercial music, it’s put to rest about 20 seconds into the opening track.
The bad news begins with the lyrics, which are banal throughout and misfire at hopelessly overdone targets (vapid party girls in “No Good Time,” television in “Freakin’ Out”). On an immediate level, this doesn’t matter much, as Coxon’s guitar is king, and he and Street push plenty of easy pleasures to the forefront. Upon repeated listens, though, Happiness in Magazines feels more and more like an album of recycled ideas. - Adam McKibbin
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