Blur - Think Tank
Reviewed by Graeme on 4th May 2003
With Britpop a distant memory and garage rock the current darling scene of the music press, the Blur of 2003 find themselves on a distinctly different landscape to when they last released a studio album, 1999's deeply introspective 13.
Taking the heavily publicised departure of guitarist Graham Coxon, the long gestation period (which included several recording sessions in Morocco and bringing in Norman Cook as a guest producer), and the albatross of Gorillaz hanging around their necks, Think Tank finds Blur at a career crossroads. Can they still prove relevant and avoid becoming the nostalgic novelty many of their former peers have become? The answer is yes. Just.
Think Tank is a radical departure from the Blur of old. Lacking Graham Coxon's guitars and informed with the dub and hip-hop of Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, most songs are centered around bass hooks and are stuffed full of overdubbed electronics. Opening track Ambulance is a perfect introduction, with it's reverb drenched bass and drum loops making a strong statement of intent. Elsewhere, tracks such as Good Song and Brothers And Sisters effortlessly combine Blur's traditionally witty songwriting with this new sound.
Much has been made of Norman Cook producing two tracks on the album, and truth betold Gene By Gene and likely second single Crazy Beat are among the weakest tracks on the album. Cluttered and unfocused, neither track does the album any favours and will certainly not endear Think Tank to Blur's largely guitar-indie fanbase.
Most intriguing of all is album closer Battery In Your Leg. The only song to feature Graham Coxon, it is an aching ballad with incredible guitar effects that threaten to drown out everything else. It's inclusion at the end of the album is a strange decision and leaves the listener with a "what if" ringing in their ears.
Despite these minor blips, Think Tank is a rewarding and worthwhile listen that bodes well for a future, though if it does turn out to be Blur's swansong then it is more than a fitting farewell.
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