Think Tank

/emi; 2003/




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Now that I am to review this album, I happen to acknowledge that I have not been waiting impatiently for it. However fan I may be, the rumours and bad news that preceded the release must have cooled off my eagerness to discover the follower to brilliant “13” which was released 4 years ago. Recording in Morocco, Fat Boy Slim as producer, Graham Coxon ejected from the band,…. I must admit that I did not expect to come across such a good album. Not considering the packaging of the limited edition of the album which strongly reminds the one for Radiohead’s “Amnesiac”, I find that there is a certain similarity in the two bands approach to music. Both have a heavy brit pop burden, both were guitar centered bands, both are somehow pretentious and both evolved. While Radiohead gave the impression of changing direction from an album to the next, it is possible to track Blur’s evolution through the years. 1997’s “Blur” introduced the first disruptions from the classical Blur album with songs like “Death of a party”, “Theme from retro” or “Essex dogs” which altogether appealingly contrasted with the singles. 1999’s “13” went deeper into deconstructing the music and sounds, exploring new areas. Along with the Gorillaz experience and the Mali Music album, the progression up to “Think Tank” seems rather natural in the end.

Every review I have read up so far truly showers fulsome praise on the album while it actually starts really bad. A beginning is always a delicate act and “Ambulance” is inadequate in this role. The litany in the lyrics ( I ain’t got nothing to be scared of…), the repetition in the music and the useless length of the song makes it the only deception on the CD. But afterwards, it is great until the end. The single “Out of time” is based on a simple guitar line with sober and sometimes withdrawn arrangements that enhance the softness of this ballad. “Crazy beat” is a good pop rock tune in keeping with the past ( “Song 2” is a burden ) but it is really anecdotic when put in the perspective of the album. Maybe this one is to please the stupid old fans. I like the pretentiousness in calling the next one “Good song” because it is. I guess Damon Albarn played the guitars on the record and there is a certain amateurism and naiveté that emanates from his riffs. “On the way to the club” and “Brothers and sisters” are mid way between haunting trip hop material and nightclub remixes of pop songs. “Caravan” is one of my favourite, a desert ballad. Albarn’s tired singing is perfect with the refined music. “We got a file on you” is another quick reminder of the past, echoing Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for a second or two. “Sweet song” reminds me of Eels’ “Electroshock blues” with its latency and melancholy. The disappearing of Coxon’s prominent guitar allows the bass and battery to create an interesting jazz-folk basis for the song as for the rest, now it is possible to pay attention to what they do. The album ends on the almost joyful “Gene by gene” and the sad “Battery in your leg”. The latter is my favourite and is to be the only song Coxon contributed to. The dirty guitar is tortured with pedal effects while a solitary Albarn weeps his feelings about love (or friendship) out over a crypt style piano.

In the end I find it hard to say what “kind” of record this one is. Even if it is homogeneously calm and melancholic, there is a kind of passive aggressive tension that runs through it in my opinion. Maturity has been called in to explain to the masses that it is good stuff but the same people should know that it is Blur’s seventh album, so what’s the point in bringing maturity as an explanation of accomplished music? It might as well be a huge daylight robbery. Yeah, just like Radiohead again.

-Angus Mesmerized Anderson

/may 15th 2003/