Former Blur guitarist and occasional reunion attendee Graham Coxon returns as himself on this new record. Unshackled by the absence of the self absorbed dictator that is the mastermind behind Blur, Damon Albarn, Coxon potentially shows fine form.

The punk driven rhythms that were often completely masked by unnecessary, bloated layers in Blur are thrown bare to be just what Coxon would have always envisaged. However, it’s not without guarded limits.

Kicking off with “Advice”, A+E points squarely at an artist’s mental block. The drivelled lyrics and thrashing chords tell the tale of people waffling Coxon’s ear off with exactly that, advice. Needed, wanted or otherwise, he should have left the idea for that song as that.

It’s an uninspiring start at best that’s nowhere new or fresh and it’s not until “What’ll It Take” that there’s a glimmer of hope. Coxon’s Colchester accent is drowned in a bouncing mix of electronica, which somehow maintains the rage.

The robotic pile that is “Meet + Drink + Pollinate” offers little more to the listener than inspiration to hit stop and read a book. “The Truth” too offers a resurgent, wallowing swagger but it’s all too late even as the record is at pains to move from punchy notes to echoing drones.“Knife In The Cast” gathers steadily before we’re met with a merciful close on the tired, sour tasting blend of everything that is “Ooh, Yeh, Yeh.”

Notice the pattern? Burying the experimental tracks (read : unproven attempts to progress) as mere ebbs and flows of an album is an old trick and it fails to mask anything on A+E.

It’s a shame but it’s not surprising. While this is a slightly new direction it’s drawing from a skill set that Coxon doesn’t yet possess. The clever hooks of old and Coxon’s talents need time to cure, like one of Alex James’ foppish cheeses.

This is a low, indeed.
– Ciarán Wilcox