One could argue all day about the effects of a band losing a member and whether what comes afterwards is really the same band (for example: the band currently calling themselves Alice in Chains, is not Alice in Chains), but I still gave Blur a shot when Graham Coxon left before their final album Think Tank. But what a tough album it was for me to warm to. I've come around to it, but it's one of the few albums in my life where I was stunned into silence after the first listen. Here was a band that were overflowing with ideas in their previous two albums, and now we had these rather more rudimentary and sometimes cloying songs.
But it wasn't until Graham left that I realized the brilliance of the third song on their self-titled album, "Country Sad Ballad Man." Yes it has a silly name and it's basically four British guys approximating country music, sort of, but it's one of best displays of guitar strangulation I've ever heard. After the tidal wave of sound in the song right before it on the album, "Song 2", "Ballad Man" opens with plinking guitar and bass, but after edging toward chaos in the last minute Coxon opened up a gaping sonic hole out of a charming little ditty. At one point he rips through a brief solo that's basically sans melody.
Here was a guy playing those lovely guitar leads for two of the more prim and proper of British rock albums, Parklife and the Great Escape, finally cutting lose properly. Coxon remains one of the most underrated guitarists of the last 20 years, and the proof is in this forgotten little tune that had the inauspicious position of being the next cut after the biggest hit the band ever had. (And for good measure, right after "Ballad Man" is the classic "M.O.R." another display of Coxon's guitar attack).
And so we witness the end.
3 years ago