A dark teenage comedy-drama series soundtracked by the introverted guitarist from one of the most famous bands from the 90s on paper is a match made in heaven. In reality, it’s not far off that, with Graham Coxon providing a fiercely clever and engaging tribute to hit series The End of the F***ing World. Context, as I have noted before, can be vital to appreciating and understanding an album, but with a soundtrack and score it is near integral. Sure, even if you haven’t watched the series you will enjoy this release from Coxon, but I recommend you watch the series first.
SPOILER ALERT: Please jump to the next paragraph if you want to avoid all spoilers, but this short overview of the series will be a useful reference point. The series follows two outcast teenagers from the South of England, James and Alyssa, who both have serious faults and issues that haunt their lives. James, a self-diagnosed psychopath, has a troubling past who kills animals for entertainment with a dangerous intention and desire involving Alyssa, whilst Alyssa’s home life is awkward, disturbing and in places vulgar. The two set out on a mission to flee their homes and run away together. Getting themselves into various incriminating situations, the two find comfort and frustration in each other, finally realising that all they believe they truly need is each-other.
Coxon’s role is to document and compliment this romance that flirts and indulges in risk, crime and danger whilst maintaining a charming youthfulness that the central characters present. In the series, we are first introduced to Coxon’s accompaniment around four minutes into the first episode when Alyssa purposely smashes her phone in the school canteen. As she gets up to walk over to James for the first time, Angry Me is played, mimicking her emotion and action. Whilst the lyrics here, as throughout the soundtrack, are simplistic and straightforward, they nonetheless represent the characters so well. They’re both slightly strange but to the point, as are James and Alyssa in the series.
We are reintroduced to Coxon in the second episode with a snippet of Walking All Day. The sepia-soaked track has a warm campfire feel with a nostalgic sing-along melody and tambourine. The additional slide guitar, whispering and female harmony only adds to this sense of juvenile fun whilst the lyrics add a sense of teenage rebellion and perspective, “Talk to me / It’s so crappy / Ignore me, I’m being sappy, over me.” Structurally simplistic and rarely deviating from three chords, Coxon proves that sometimes stripping back to basics is all that is needed for an amusing and catchy track.
As the soundtrack progresses the musicality develops in complexity, moving away from the softer and more innocent feel of the earlier tracks. Whilst Walking All Day and Angry Me may carry dark undertones, they retain a charming immaturity, whilst musical depth begins to reveal itself on Bus Stop. Flanged guitar, thunderous electric arpeggios and sustained instrumentals encourage a real tension, complimenting the lyricism of “walk a fine line, don’t follow me, don’t talk to me”. On The Prowl is another gleaming example of the albums development with an Iggy Pop inspired vocal lacing on top of overdriven guitar in a punk-esque manner, deviating entirely from the earlier tracks.
Instrumentals add another layer to the soundtrack and are executed brilliantly. Whilst these serve greater purpose in the series itself, they nonetheless retain importance in the soundtrack, adding character and variation. A-typical of a Coxon album, Flashback, The Beach and The Snare reveal his ability to convert stories and scenes into vivid, imaginative and sincere compositions, whilst not deploying traditional soundtrack instrumentations. Continuing to use predominantly guitar, bass and drums, Coxon is clearly not presenting himself as the next Zimmer or Williams, nor should he; by sticking to what he knows best the finish is pleasing enough, playing it safe here remains exciting.
Despite being his first soundtrack, Coxon comes forward with a release so confident and well executed it could be his tenth. Deploying all of his experience and knowledge from his time with Blur and from his solo work, he creates an honest and wholesome partner for the series with standalone tracks and moments that even if divorced from the series are notably superb. This album is diverse in influences, with elements of Mexican (Lucifer’s Behind Me), punk and folk sounds, yet it somehow magnificently stays unified as a gorgeously rich piece, ensuring both continuity throughout the album and first-rate reflections of the series.