After a three year gap from his previous solo record, a gap which included being dropped from his previous label, and reuniting with Blur; Graham Coxon returns with a new album, The Spinning Top, which meshes his early acoustic style with his more recent, pop/rock oriented work.
The album is produced by Stephen Street; the same man who produced Coxon's 2004 album, Happiness in Magazines, 2006's Love Travels At Illegal Speeds, both of whose pop/rock sounds clashed with Graham's previous four acoustic albums. Street also worked with Coxon on Blur's albums Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, amongst others; but this is really the most acoustic stuff he's worked on, so it's an interesting transition.
According to Coxon, The Spinning Top is a concept album that follows a narrative of a man from birth to death; and in my opinion he definitely got the concept right with progressive tonal changes throughout the fifteen track album. What I mean is that there's definitely that sense of birth to death, with it opening melodically and acoustically, gradually hits a high point, when electric guitars and other instruments are finally introduced, but then it gradually slows down to a dark, peaceful end. In a sense, you can say the album is difficult to listen to as just separate tracks because you lose the feeling of the completed composition.
That's not to say you can't listen to the tracks separately, I just don't recommend it. In fact, there are some that really stand out to me, first off is the album opener, "Look Into The Light," which while intended as the "birth" track, it pretty much sets the mood for the entire album. The real stand out track for me though is the beautiful, eight and a half minute acoustic piece, "In The Morning," which is one of the finest acoustic tracks I've heard from anyone in some time.
But it's not all acoustic love here. The fourth track on the album, "If You Want Me," starts out acoustic like the first three songs, but enters the electric realm midway through; and to be honest, it took me by surprise when I first heard it. But while the following two tracks return with acoustic flare, "Dead Bees" shows up, and it's probably the hardest stuff you're going to hear on the album; it reminded me of Oasis' track, "Better Man," to give you an idea. But in tune with the birth to death theme, once you get past the middle of the album, right around my least favorite track, "Caspian Sea," the album starts to get slower. Not that it's all bad, as the second to last track, "Tripping Over," reminded me of Soundgarden in it's tone, and that's just awesome.
Overall, The Spinning Top is an excellent addition to Graham Coxon's musical library. But, those looking for a pop/rock sound akin to his last two releases may find themselves disappointed. However, if you appreciate Graham's earlier solo records, The Spinning Top is a real back to basics album, but with a handful of his catchy rock thrown into the mix. Chances are it won't win you over if you weren't a fan before, but if you're open to change, I really recommend it.
Overall Score: 9/10
To those living in North America, the album is sadly hard to find on CD unless you pay for an imported version, which will probably be costly. Thankfully, you can buy the album on iTunes, which is what I did. Note, iTunes has a few of the track titles wrong, so you'll want to look up the correct names.
Listen to The Spinning Top at Graham Coxon's MySpace.