The Golden D
By: Eric G.
Blur guitarist Graham Coxon's second vanity album is an even noisier mess than his first attempt to distance himself from Damon Albarn's songwriting two years ago. Coxon plays every instrument himself, and his musical tangents veer into cacophonous skate punk, discordant indie rock, and jazzy hip-hop (of all things). Coxon is an extraordinary guitarist, but his talents lend themselves much better to Albarn's melodic tendencies. The Golden D is an indulgent record, as Coxon musically exercises his frustrations with the fame and fortune that go hand in hand with being an international pop star, but it has a few brilliant moments that may make it a worthwhile endeavor.
Anyone that follows Blur knows that Coxon often grimaces at the thought of playing some of the band's more saccharine pop songs because he's a punker at heart. On the past two Blur albums, though, Damon Albarn has indulged some of Coxon's noisier tastes, taking pop structure to its very limits while still being catchy enough to chart top forty in Europe. Apparently, throwing Coxon those few bones didn't quite curb his need to rock out.
The Golden D is an album packed full of Coxon's favorite things. Isn't that what solo albums are for? The title itself is a reference to his favorite chord ("D"), which he proceeds to shred in clouds of distortion on song after song. "Jamie Thomas" is a tribute to Coxon's favorite skateboarder, and it's a thrashing barrage of old school punk riffs and thudding percussion. Two reverent Mission Of Burma covers pay tribute to, presumably, one of Coxon's favorite minimalist punk trios.
Coxon unfortunately masks his pristine and fiercely underrated voice with as much distortion as he does his favorite chord. Such shyness is puzzling for someone with so much creative control (in addition to playing and singing every note he even drew every picture for the artwork). A song like "My Idea Of Hell" is a throwaway (an example of too much studio time), but a plaintive instrumental like "Lake" with its bluesy overdubs challenges the idea that Coxon couldn't survive without his other band.
"Fags And Failure" is a throwback to early power punk as Coxon's guitars bristle with shards of feedback and distortion. "Leave Me Alone" is directly influenced by death metal, but it's a little too lo-fi for metal fans to eat up despite the "we're nothing" chant. "Keep Hope Alive" is the only song that even remotely resembles Coxon's debut The Sky Is Too High. His voice is discernable though distant as he delivers his typically morose lyrics while he lightly strums his acoustic guitar. It's an eerie but melodic reminder that Coxon is yet another Nick Drake disciple.
This album would probably put off the majority of Blur fans, but that's bound to be Coxon's goal. If you like jumbled, inconsistent, noisy punk and indie rock you could probably find a few songs on this record to like and, maybe, even love, but if you're shopping for an essential solo album by the guitarist from Blur, he hasn't made one yet.