Happiness in Magazines is the second solo album from Graham Coxon since his departure from Blur two years ago. The difficulties leading to Coxon's departure from Blur are well documented and enough time has passed that they are not worth repeating. Coxon claims any animosity between he and the band are gone but he still wants to move forward in his own direction.
That direction is 2005's Happiness in Magazines. The D.I.Y. aesthetic that characterizes Coxon's previous solo albums is still evident but Steven Street's production has smoothed the rough edges. The gloss makes the album an accessible affair without rendering it punchless. There should be a place in rock for albums like this. Music would be in a much better state if these were the worst songs afflicting radio.
It is a competent and confident effort, but it is an album with very few memorable songs and lacks a defining moment. There are hooks, but they are small and fail to hold the listener for very long. And no amount of spit and polish can disguise Coxon's vocal limitations. Happiness almost always sounds like what it is: an album made by a former sideman-turned-frontman.
These are (unedited) notes I took during my first to spins of Happiness. Comments from Graham Coxon his ownself precede my commentary:
1 - Spectacular: [Graham Coxon]'That's about seeing a picture of Shannyn Sossamon on the computer and just thinking, "Good God what a beautiful woman!" And that's it. I suppose sonically it's a swampy, clangy maraca driven frustrated sort of song of admiration. But I'm not a stalker.'
DJRadiohead's First Impression: Kinks-y riff with slightly a-tonal vocals
Upon Further Review: Vocals are still underwhelming on the second listen
2 - No Good Time: [GC]'It's about being at a party feeling extremely out of place; seeing people sinking into the ground via nostrils and powder basically. I was socializing inadequately at the time. I'm very fond of the guitar solo in that song. And I was very pleased with the sneering ,comments about Hoxton culture. But it's not meant to be taken too seriously.'
DJRadiohead's First Impression: Sneering britpop punk-ish tune
Upon Further Review: the vocals are less annoying on the second spin, but the song is still a bit of a throwaway