Venue, Edinburgh, Tue 25 May, King Tut’s, Glasgow, Wed 26 May

Let’s face facts, and this includes you too Damon, Graham Coxon was always the coolest one in Blur. He was the quirky genius to the other three’s egocentric, ginger dullard and champagne quaffing fop, and he messed up ‘Country House’ with a scuzzily discordant solo, for which we’ll forever be grateful. So while the rest of his ex- bandmates are off making world music, sending songs to Mars and flying planes, you can rest assured that if it’s off-kilter guitar music you’re looking for, then Mr Coxon’s your man.

He hasn’t always been this accessible, however. Four solo LPs of thrash and lo-fi folk certainly had their moments but didn’t always make for the easiest listening. His most recent effort, Happiness in Magazines, on the other hand, is an utterly glorious record which finds his trademark loveably eccentric lyrics cloaked in newfound infectious melodies and confident vocals, and produced by long-time Blur producer Stephen Street, who seems to have found Coxon’s inner pop. So we get sumptuous strings, bittersweet ballads and veritable guitar anthems from a man quite clearly thrilled to have put his Blur past to bed. ‘I don’t want to be back in the group,’ Coxon said

recently. ‘I think that would be the worst thing for me. That’s nothing against them it’s not personal

‘I have to shit or get off the pan’

but I feel a huge weight lifted and I just don’t think there’s any need to go back. There would be no

point. I’m in a new phase now.’

Anyone who caught him live in the past may have witnessed a shaky excuse for a frontman, uneasily mumbling into the mic and stuttering through choruses. Huge recent shifts in his personal life, however, including spending bundles of quality time with his three-year old daughter Pepper and - as a two-time Priory resident going without a drink since 2002, mean you can expect a newly refreshed and settled singer/ songwriter for these forthcoming Scottish shows.

‘I made a conscious decision that as I’m not in a group anymore, I really have to shit or get off the pan,’ he explains. ‘I have to stand by my stuff, be unapologetic about myself and do it properly. Because I thought one day I might look back and regret not giving it a good go.’

As Britpop relics like Suede, Supergrass and even his old band crumble around him, Coxon stands triumphant among the rubble of ignored new material, greatest hits packages and receding hairlines, and, NHS specs intact, he’s making the finest music of his career. Magnificent stuff. (Camilla Pia)


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Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sat 15 May

SufJan Stevens; is nuts; but great. The singer songwriter from Michigan currently makes music that comes from along heritage of traditional American folk tunes. although he bends and twists; those influences; to produce something entirer new and often brilliant. Ste\.'ens' recent fourth album. Seven Swans. is; a beautiful blend of Fllrott Smith tunesinithery. Sbaiklencrs;ian lo-fn burbles. Will ()lillléll“: old time folky l)£tll]() and glutar and disturbineg apocalyptic Christian lyrics. It !S a wonderful piece of ‘.'.'ork and it has a unique and clear ‘.'lf‘>l()l‘- at its own.

But Stevens; is hardly one for stickii‘g to a formula. Of his preVIous tl‘iee records. the first. A Sun Came. was; a blend of pop. medieval E"Sll'll'llOllthllOll. tape loops. samples. literal", xocals and Arabic chants. His second. fill/0V Your Rabbit. was; an ele<:t"on'ca concept album about the Cl‘l'lC‘Sf} /odiac. And his third. 7.7:(3’ii’g/1ii’7. as the first of :30 planned folk concept albums. one for each US

state. Quite.

Nuts but great

‘.‘."hen he's not making music Stevens; '.'."."tl(}S short stories; and designs children's; books. He also aléegedl‘, teaches the blind to knit and prcks up a bit of freelance crocheting on the side. One thing he definiter does; do is p|a\ banio in fellow oddball countqfiies tl‘e Danielson Famile. 'l‘OSY of ‘.'.:hoin appear on Seven 83'. .‘1"s;. l--ls;e\.'.'here on a truly (?X(:(?l)l!()ll£tl line up of iiidmdual iettfield talent is Iron & Wine. the musical moniker of singer songwriter Sain Beam. Based in Miami. Beam feigees the booty -bass and thong :vnage of the (th\ to produce stripped— :l()‘.'."l i()‘ll Americana. music which "as 'ather :ncongruously been released by gurus of grunge Sub Pop n ll‘t} States Making up the bill is the more connentional acoustic sengz-.~i'iting of Detroit-based Rosie 'll‘ei‘ias although she does like to do a stint as a stand-up comedian. so she‘s; c'ea"!\. a bit daft.

Doug Johnstone

‘-'- THE LIST 45