September 4, 2003

Test Spin: Blur

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Think Tank is the seventh album from Brit-pop band Blur, a group well-known for their constantly changing musical style and ever-shifting identity. Not surprisingly, Think Tank is an album that veers all over the musical atlas, sampling from a myriad of musical genres including techno, jazz, punk, and pure british guitar pop. Tank is also the first album since singer Damon Albarn achieved great success with his side project Gorillaz, and his influence is more noticeable on this album than the band’s previous efforts. The departure of guitarist Graham Coxon over creative differences has left Albarn as the dominant creative force in the group and the result is an album that finds and loses its groove repeatedly over the course of 13 tracks. At its best, Tank combines funky bass lines with smooth and almost dream-like vocals from Albarn. At its worst, the album features too many similar, forgettable melodies that lack the punch Coxon often lent to the group. The dance influence of producer Fatboy Slim (he produced two tracks) is unmistakable, as this album features less of the throbbing drums of previous efforts and more synthesized, repetitive percussion. The opening tracks, “Ambulance” and “Out of Time” are probably the best on the album, as the group hits its stride with upbeat harmonies that nicely complement Albarn’s smooth delivery. On these two tracks, Blur sounds like the true heirs to British guitar pop legends The Who. Unfortunately, the rest of the album lacks the same punch, as many of the songs, well, blur together. The few tunes in which they depart from this set style do stand out, but more for being ill-fitted to the rest of the tracks than for their own original quality. The excellent “Battery in Your Leg” is another exception, a touching ballad that features Albarn at the height of his ability. It’s just too bad that the rest of the album doesn’t reach the same level of raw emotion and beautiful harmony.

Archived article by Gautham Nagesh