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The boys in Blur are back - sort of. . .

Blur, Think Tank

Takes a certain amount of chutzpah to name your first release in three-plus years Think Tank (Virgin). But Damon Albarn and the rest of the boys in Blur (minus snappy guitarman Graham Coxon, unfortunately) have always happily traded in a certain amount of disaffected popguy arrogance. So – ignoring the likelihood of a thousand rock critics seizing on the quip-filled potential of its title – the boys’ve released Think, anyway. Me, I’m happy enough to have ’em back, so I’m gonna resist the obvious one-liners.
Advanced word on this album has been mixed, so let’s get this out of the way first. There are no instantaneous tickle-yer-ears pop tracks on this disc: no “Tender” (never thought I’d be won over by a cut blending George Harrison with Webber/Rice, but somehow these guys did it!); no “Girls and Boys” (best post-new wave new wave song ever!); no “Song 2” (if only today’s current pop-punkers could sound half as joyful!); no “Parklife” (greatest song Ian Dury never wrote). Tone of the new release is largely subdued – more like flagging Bowie or theatrical era Ray Davies – so muted that it largely trails off by the final tracks.
Those fans who’ve followed lead singer/songwriter Albarn into side projects like Gorillaz will probably be more satisfied with this disc than us more pop-addled Blur-istes. Think Tank has some of the same druggy danceclub moves, particularly in its second half (though, again, nothing as immediately grabbing as “Clint Eastwood”): lots of dub and electronica fx, third world guitar riffing, with a measure of tribal jazziness added to the sound. When the elements come together (“Crazy Beat,” with its wiggy Fatboy Slim mixed dancebeat, or “Brothers and Sisters”), it’s energizing. Unfortunately, too many tracks just lie there gasping for air.
The band still has its pure pop moments: “Good Song” sounds like it could’ve been one of the better tracks on the Kinks’ Preservation (“Sitting in the Midday Sun,” say), while “We’ve Got a File on You” effectively plays oy! punk over its repetitiously chanted title. But they’re pretty spare in comparison to such faux-arty experiments as “Jets,” which adds an extended boppy sax solo over atonal electronic sounds. (Motorhead Sherwood – you are redeemed!) I’d opine that Coxon was the band member responsible for the group’s earlier strong pop sensitivity. But, then, I’ve heard his sub-Dinosaur Jr. solo album, The Sky Is Too High, so maybe that’s not right either.
In sum: a disc for Blur loyalists to buy and argue about. All others are referred to the group’s 2000 collection, Best of Blur, for the best that 90’s Britpop has to offer.
Think Tank, eh? Who do they think they’re fooling? (Sorry – guess I couldn’t resist after all.)

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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