So Graham Coxon’s The Guitarist on Pete Doherty’s “Grace/Wasteland”

Yes, it matters.  If you were to — as I did — just preview Doherty’s solo album via the iTunes 30-second snippets, you might hear the notoriously dissolute Libertine and Babyshambler in the Kinks-influenced guise all British rock stars at some point don — part music hall showman, part busker — and be tempted to pass.  It was only with the arrival of the December Uncut and its boss interview with Blur guitar genius Graham Coxon that we learned he’s the axeman on it.  And of course, when you hear a song like “Palace and Bone” it all comes clear, and it is pretty wondrous.

I didn’t succumb to the charms of Coxon’s folk album, The Spinning Top.  I want to hear him play those weird, twisted tunings like “Song 2” all the livelong day, not an update of Bert Jansch.  I want his solo albums to be like Happiness in Magazines, the best British Powerpop album of 1979, even if it was released in like 2004. On Pete Doherty’s “Grace/Wasteland”, Coxon’s able to shine the light on both sides of his musical personality, the rough and raw and the fey and magical, gloriously twisted in both camps.

Admission: Tulip Frenzy ranked Babyshambles’ Shotters Nation one of the best albums of 2007, and the resistance to Doherty’s solo album was a reluctance to commit, to take a leap of faith.  It took the knowledge that Graham Coxon — perhaps the most brilliant guitarist between Nels Cline and the White Cliffs of Dover — was standing there on that Albion precipice to get us to jump.  Thank Heaven we did.  An eye opener, and ear pleaser, this one is.

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