Monday, May 04, 2009

Tony Cox: Unpublished

By: Rinjo Njori

In the pop world, songwriters partner up with singers and trust them to bring their song to life. All too often the songwriter is ultimately forgotten. The hands on approach taken by Tony Cox might explain the lush melodies, chiming guitars, and a dash of "Brit Pop meets California" nostalgia but it also puts Unpublished in the latter category. Cox has managed to find himself some amazing partners to showcase his flawless tunes and entrust them with delivering his amazing music.

All the tracks (music and lyrics) on Unpublished were written by Tony Cox. With the help of Nigel Clark and Darren Finlan, those tracks are brought to life. Within the eleven tracks the standard themes of love, loss and want seed the songs. Just because Cox is behind the guitar doesn't mean he can't write some great lyrics. Cox wisely layers most of his songs with multiple guitar tracks but it's his willingness to experiment with keyboards that really brings most tracks to the next level. More than enough pop artists are all too willing to settle for the occasional piano to give a song a more layered feel with the synth being reserved for the new wave crowd or Prince.

"Life is Hardcore," Cox's most experimental track, might lean a little too heavy on electronic music. The song is a worthy musical exercise and far from gratuitous. No one is going to confuse Tony Cox for Neil Tenant, but mixed in with all the strong pop songs it shakes up Unpublished. "Fallen" and "Feel Real Love" are the best representations of Cox's ability as a songwriter. In some ways, "Fallen" is reminiscent of the acoustic songs Noel Gallagher seems to write without effort. However, Cox layers strings over what seems to be a wall of acoustic guitars. Where Gallagher aims for the simpler, stoic approach or goes over the top with big guitar sounds. Nigel Clark's vocals are Lennon-esque and it wouldn't be a far stretch to compare him to the older and more talented Gallagher brother without the cynicism. "Feel Real Love" would fit perfectly on Alex Turner's Last Shadow Puppets album if only Turner wasn't so obsessed with capturing that retro sound. Cox manages to find a balance between the song's Brit-pop influences and a modern day pop song. The pulsing bass line and horns make this song infectious. Cox wisely lays off the guitar and lets the beat carry the song. On "Say the Word," the warm harmonies, multiple vocals and agro make the song feel very California. Cox, Clark, and Finlan might not be the Beach Boys, but they prove here that the chorus is not the only place for group vocals.

Cox's fluid sound almost makes you wonder why someone with this much talent has managed to stay under the radar. If Clark and Finlan join him for the ride, I can't imagine how Cox couldn't avoid some devoted following. Unpublished clearly balances out the singer-songwriter dynamic with a degree of confidence that feels refreshing.

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