Verse, Chorus, Monster! by Graham Coxon review – Britpop’s unlikely lad

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As Blur bossed the 90s, and Damon Albarn’s bouncy songs astir Englishness came to exemplify Britpop, Graham Coxon could usually beryllium recovered scowling astatine the backmost of the band’s radical shots. Coxon’s MO arsenic their guitarist often progressive lobbing “anti-solos” into the machinery, the band’s sceptical counterweight.

The 2 had met astatine schoolhouse successful Colchester, Essex, decamping to creation assemblage successful London wherever they recovered themselves astatine the centre of 2 originative movements: the Goldsmiths’ creation acceptable that would go the YBAs, and the bands who would spearhead a caller sound. One glimpse astatine the euphony property backmost past would person revealed that Coxon, bespectacled, crisp and into American euphony arsenic overmuch arsenic the Kinks, was not ever thrilled astatine his band’s absorption of travel.

The much chirpy Blur’s singles became, the little evident was the band’s arched eyebrow, oregon their bucolic, bittersweet undercurrents, oregon their wide scope of influences. One flashpoint was Blur’s 1995 deed Country House – ostensibly a satire connected occurrence – and its Damien Hirst-directed video. As the set larked astir with arch-lad Keith Allen portion buxom young women pastiched Benny Hill, Coxon felt the band’s consciousness of irony looping backmost connected itself.

His discomfort with sexism – and occurrence – was played retired successful interviews. Coxon’s then-partner was successful the riot grrrl set Huggy Bear and astatine the tallness of Blur’s fame, Coxon retreated from “high thoroughfare Blur” into the grassroots DIY punk scene. Other tensions tugged astatine Blur – some Coxon and drummer Dave Rowntree struggled with alcoholism. Coxon entered rehab successful 2001, and the remainder of Blur made their medium Think Tank without him.

All this is simply a substance of nationalist record. Written with the writer Rob Young – writer of Electric Eden, a primer connected British people music’s transporting qualities – Coxon’s memoir does not uncover thing precise caller astir a much-catalogued era.

It does, however, retell a acceptable of acquainted tales – Britpop, the madness that is fame, set strife, addiction – with disarming candour. Coxon tin beryllium lyrical erstwhile talking astir the euphony helium loves – from the Who to obscure US set Mission of Burma – but his code is mostly matter-of-fact. There is simply a refreshing innocence to his prose erstwhile talking, for example, astir the much-maligned 12-step programme. “No 1 teaches you this stuff,” helium riffs – chiefly, navigating occurrence and relationships.

Graham Coxon successful  Konk Studios, northbound  London, August 2018
Graham Coxon successful Konk Studios, northbound London, August 2018. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

It is simply a astonishment – oregon perchance nary astonishment astatine each – that Coxon lone reports euphony being immoderate amusive much than 200 pages in, erstwhile helium tours the short, crisp songs of his 5th solo medium with a set of friends successful tiny venues. Hilariously, Coxon the naysayer does really grounds immoderate stone prima behaviour. He lives successful a precise large location successful the country, for a clip (mostly arsenic a hermit, walking the bounds successful his pants). He tinkers happily with vintage motorbikes. He gets into spiritualism and Wicca. He moves to LA (but rapidly returns). Fender makes a Telecaster successful his honour.

A recent portion successful the Guardian noted the striking fig of musicians successful hardcore punk who had grown up arsenic service kids. Born successful Germany, Coxon besides moved astir bases, surviving the benignant of unsupervised 1970s puerility afloat of crisp edges and casual unit that seems heart-rending now. Raised successful Derbyshire and not rich, Coxon was peculiarly vexed erstwhile Blur were formed arsenic posh confederate kids to the much hardscrabble Oasis.

In art, Coxon recovered a means of exorcism arsenic good a stylistic exercise. (He mostly drew monsters.) In music, though, helium recovered a tribe, and successful alcohol, a balm for his deep-rooted anxiousness and the “constant buzz of embarrassment”. Verse, Chorus, Monster! was written during lockdown, aft a batch of therapy; Coxon has been sober immoderate years. You fishy Rob Young was chosen arsenic a sounding-board due to the fact that immoderate clip agone – surely successful clip for his 2009 album, The Spinning Top – Coxon fell hard for the unfastened tunings and complex finger-work of people revival guitarists specified arsenic Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy. Like the feminist punk country successful the 90s, people was different people from which Coxon (the notional “pop star”) expected a rebuff. Instead, helium recovered acceptance. Verse, Chorus, Monster! breaks disconnected with Coxon, a classically tortured musician, connected a blessedly adjacent keel.

  • Verse, Chorus, Monster! by Graham Coxon is published by Faber (£20). To enactment the Guardian and Observer bid your transcript astatine Delivery charges whitethorn apply