Graham Coxon, Fibbers, York

Fibbers, York

A decade ago, Graham Coxon attempted to leave Blur's Britpop victory party via a sixth-floor window; two years ago he finally left the band. In between were bouts with mental illness and alcoholism, and half-brilliant lo-fi solo albums in one of the most severe reactions against fame since Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. While Coxon's former bandmate Damon Albarn records in Mali, it's somehow typical that the reluctant guitar hero makes a low-key comeback in towns like York and returns to the top 40 with a limited-edition 7-inch. However, the rampaging Freakin' Out single is not the only sign that the recovered Coxon is now matching anything he did in Blur.

Coxon is here previewing May's Happiness in Magazines album (working title: No More Mr Lo-Fi), which casts his own tailspin against modern daily life. Tales of spots, tabloids, computers, McDonald's, "madness and how to stay thin" are delivered within an exhilarating psychedelic punk guitar barrage, somewhere between Syd Barrett and John Otway. Older lyrics like "I wish I didn't feel so flippin' mad, I don't want to scare you" contrast markedly with cheerily manic one-liners like "Live for ever, in World of Leather", which somehow conjures up consumer overload, comfy sofas, and Oasis.

Albarn may wonder how his band managed to lose the creator of such sublime pop as Bittersweet Bundle of Misery, but Coxon seems happier tackling success on his terms. Now almost completely resembling Peter Sellars, he begins bespectacled, removes his glasses so he can't see the audience, looks uncomfortable when the crowd sing Happy Birthday (he's a "pensionable" 35), but finally admits, "It's quite nice, this." As Freakin' Out and the storming and very un-Blur-like People of the Earth ("About aliens. You must repent!") sends the roof spinning towards Mali, it's almost tempting to ask: "Damon who?"

· Graham Coxon tours in May.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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