Blur go back to the future - Blur: Think Tank

2008-12-18 09:27

It's an album that speaks to the worldwide psychosis of these post 911 years. Here we are, trapped in our cities. We're targets and angry protesters against the same things we might be bombed to protest. We're romantics because we must be, because we're desperate to find beauty in other people, even though the person standing next to us in the street could have a bomb strapped to their body.

Scrawled defiantly across the inner sleeve: I AIN'T GOT NOTHING TO BE SCARED OF. Terrifying words. The music is all fear, beauty, claustraphobia, instability.

Blur are often compared to the Beatles. Deservedly - Think Tank is full of self-conscious allusions to the super boy group. And this album is their Abbey Road. "Ambulance" - a shifting, pschotic, paranoid huge city song is the "Day in the Life" for a bigger, nastier world. "Out of Time" is a less light but heart wrenching answer to "Here Comes the Sun", sung like "Michelle", with the chaos of a cocktail party disturbing the sweetness just enough to show it.

Think Tank seems to be dotted with echoes of these two famous tracks, as well as playing with Radiohead-like pronunciation on "Caravan" 'Andff fwhenf ith comesh/ you'll ffelll the weightff offf itf...", which can wear thin. But overall, no trendy tribute.

The arrangements are inventive, delicate. Blur have gone for some fashionable electronic effects and production tricks, which aren't likely to date. Some say ditching guitarist Coxon ruined the band, but that's just something to say over a beer, like "Old Pink Floyd is the best, man." Spare me - go clean your fingernails and get a job. The absence of Coxon's grungy guitar except on "Battery in your leg" makes Think Tank's bitter pills slicker and easier to swallow.

As with all brave bits of music, there are low points. "Crazy Beat" is a cheesy dig at Nu Metal and cheap musical tricks in general. While it's clever enough, surely music fans aren't that interested in the ins and outs of the industry? And "Jets" is so pointlessly pretentious it doesn't even deserve to be a hidden track on a Nirvana album. Finally, the copy protection on the CD forces you to use the built-in player when listening on your PC, and the CD sticks from time to time. Annoying.

Blur are always a risk-driven band with few safe hits. They're not easy to like, partly because they don't treat their audience too gently. Nothing has changed. On Think Tank, they'll let you fall, then snap you up by your bungee cord, just in time.

- Jean Barker

Say what you like about this Think Tank - it's brilliant. Even if only because any rock fan you meet now no longer says "hello, how're you" but rather, "hey, have you heard the new Blur?"

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