coxon_spinningI’m a sucker for a good reconciliation, and so was delighted to hear the news that Graham Coxon had returned to the happy fold of Blur. After all, this was a band formed with childhood friends, Coxon and Albarn knowing each other since their teens, afternoons ensconced in bedrooms watching Mike Leigh films, bunking off school. All in all, it seems to be Coxon out of the four of them who has mellowed the most since their bust-up in the wake of Think Tank, and this album seems to be further evidence. Incredibly, this is his seventh solo attempt, as many albums as Blur, and also his strongest. Happiness in Magazines and Love Travels At Illegal Speeds give the impression that Coxon was trying too hard, as if he had something to prove. They seem rather forced, overly rigid missing the looseness that marked his earlier albums, particularly the debut The Sky’s Too High. The Spinning Top, despite taking in a variety of styles, is Coxon at his most coherent, and whilst slightly overlong contains many fine songs.The centrepiece is the accomplished ‘In The Morning’, a captivating piece that clocks in at over eight minutes with an album’s worth of ideas. It is best listened to while walking across a field, particularly on a sunny day, full of golden melodies and a charming sense of contentment. Back to The Sky’s Too High, and Coxon sings on ‘I Wish’ of a desire to “bring Nick Drake back to life”. He almost achieves that on opening track ‘Look Into The Light’, which bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Cello Song’ in harmony, coupled with a rasping deep resonance that swirls around the guitar patterns.However, its not all quiet acoustics, Coxon demonstrating on ‘If You Want Me’ how interesting a guitarist he can be in a song of two halves, starting quiet and plaintive before descending into a blare of stuttered electrics and thudding drums. This motif continues into the equally euphoric ‘Dead Bees’, but the main feel of this album is that of dizzy, quiet charms. Coxon seems to have aligned two of his idols, Drake and Barrett, into a structured, captivating collection of songs. Sure, there are the odd track that could have been omitted, ‘Caspian Sea’ and ‘November’ in particular. But, for the first time, Coxon has released an album that can hold its own against anything he recorded as a member of Blur.75%Graham Coxon on MySpace