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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Graham Coxon
Love Travels at Illegal Speeds
Parlophone

Rating: 8/10 ?


October 27, 2006
Like many on both sides of the Atlantic, I very much fancy Blur. In my mind they were Britain's off-kilter spiritual twin to America's premier kilter-killers, Pavement. Irreverent yet serious music makers who could effortlessly hook starry-eyed hipsters with any number of arrows from their artistic quiver. Splintered songs with literate lyrics flowed with such ease that both bands rightfully ascended to the pantheon of 1990's indie Gods. Blur versus Oasis? It wasn't even close.

Unlike Pavement, which was led by the particular vision of Stephen Malkmus, Blur had the creative tension of Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn as it's guiding voice, and that duality contributed to the band's brilliance. When Coxon left the band to its own devices, Blur released Think Tank (which received a ho-hum review from LAS). Some felt the absence of Coxon's guitar, vocals and overall contribution left the album with a fatal sinkhole. I thought Think Tank was one of the best releases of 2003. Sure it tilted heavily to Albarn's more ethereal landscapes and allowed for more expression from Alex James and Dave Rowntree, but it still sounded like Blur and that is a tribute to Coxon's legacy: the band he helped create is so durable that its essential elements remain intact, sans co-founder. As to the solo careers of Albarn and Coxon, both have been noteworthy in their own right. Albarn's Gorillaz has evolved into a formidable group itself, and the outfit has allowed him to explore his creative leanings outside the confines of traditional pop. Coxon, on the other hand, has released an increasingly solid catalog of straight ahead guitar driven rock and roll. Viewed together it's easy to hear the stark differences that complimented each other so well in Blur: yin and yang, or din and twang.

Coxon's fourth US release and sixth overall solo effort, Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, was produced by Stephen Street, who produced two classic Blur albums Parklife and Modern Life is Rubbish. The album kicks off with a distinctive Coxon scratchy guitar riff that opens up into the brash "Standing On My Own Again." The song quickly establishes a theme of independence that streaks through the album: "I'm gonna let you leave without a sound/ Pushing you to you wit's end/ Guess I'm gonna lose a friend/ Standing on my own again." After recently leaving alcohol rehab and with his solo career in full swing, Coxon seems determined to let bygones be gone and to look to the future.

The other primary focus of Love Travels at Illegal Speeds is indeed love. At times it appears ostensibly comical (in that English sort of way) as in "Gimme Some Love, Are you gonna dump this other guy/ Before I die of sexual frustration?/ I can't stand the crowds on a Saturday night/ Why don't you come around and try to make it alright?" Yet there is a more reflective and personal side of Coxon that is also revealed. The gorgeous "Flights to the Sea," an acoustic ballad complete with a fluttering flute that would please Marshall Tucker, speaks to the transitory nature of relationships; "Though I might lose you to the sand/ I won't let go of your hand."

Musically the record pulls from different styles, from American blues to early British rock. Even Coxon's ex-band rears its head from time to time; the apple hasn't fallen that far from the tree. Coxon clearly shows a mastery that comes from experience, and when he hits his groove it's infectious. One listen to centerpiece track "You & I" exposes the many influences that Coxon so adeptly blends. Perhaps more importantly, it also reveals the vast influence that Coxon - with or without Blur - has had on many recent American and European rock acts. As for Graham Coxon the soloist (in a strict sense of the word: he plays every instrument on the album, with a few added instrumentalists), he is marching onward and getting more confident. This album may not represent him at the creative peak of his post-Blur powers, but it shows he is getting closer.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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