Think Tank CD – Virgin

When co-founding guitarist Graham Coxon left Blur during early sessions for the band’s seventh album, the world lost a dependable Brit-pop singles quartet and gained an unexpectedly adept World Pop trio. And it would seem that everyone is happy now that the bickering and biting is over: Coxon is free to devote all of his time to recording and issuing uninviting, abrasive solo records, while singer/songwriter Damon Albarn, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree pushed the boundaries of Blur’s sound even further. Aside from “Crazy Beat,” an unabashedly infectious Fatboy Slim-produced track that should have been a stand-alone single, Think Tank eschews rockin’ to roll, roll, roll. Heavily driven by the rhythm section, the lads make concessions to club culture (the alone-in-a-crowd “On The Way To The Club,” “Brothers & Sisters” – druggy roll call crossed with Stereo MC’s “Connected” – beautiful, googly-eyed ballads (“Good Song,” “Sweet Song”), and a protest song that metamorphoses into a weary sigh (“Out of Time”). The whole affair is steeped in far Eastern influences; you can hear it in the lazy sideways guitar structures Albarn breezes through on “Caravan” and “Good Song,” the Moroccan orchestra that fleshes out “Out of Time,” the rope-a-dope riff snaking around a Muslim prayer call on “We’ve Got A File On You.” Lyrically, Albarn’s over Justine and in love with life, a lover, and his baby, but there’s the underlying sense that this comfort could collapse any moment, in the flash of a terrorist bomb or an Allied air strike (“I ain’t got/ nothin’ to be scared of”; “They’re the rockets we should fear”; “I could be lying on an atom bomb/ I’ll take care/ Cuz I know you’ll be there”). As alien as this territory is for Blur, it’s made a great staging ground for their most continuously enjoyable record yet. (Raymond Cummings)



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