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Blur – Think Tank Review

There is post-fame and post-spotlight. Never the two shall meet and for those in the latter, as Blur found themselves on Think Tank, there is an opening for considerable range. Graham Coxon departed, but not before laying down some impressive work, as he detailed in his autobiography, Verse, Chorus, Monster, goes a long way in charting the intrepid time for the band. Fractured at best, still reeling from the heyday which at the point of this Banksy-clad release was eight years prior. Blur had been around since the turn of the 1990s and holding out for this long before a lengthy hiatus was a shock to the system. So too is Think Tank, the oft-forgotten release in the Blur discography.  

Immediately clear on Me, White Noise is the influence of electronica on the band. Damon Albarn had already wandered off to head up Gorillaz, and the leftover remnants of their work were seemingly at Blur’s disposal. Hence the heavier trip, the buried vocals and the lack of choice found in these jagged and hounded lyrics. Albarn is at a 21st-century best here, the influences of Underworld on his craft clear to hear. There is a maddened repetition holding firm throughout, and it makes for a firm underdog in the “best track” debates. Ambulance carries the torch forward too. Not as strong as the preceding, unlisted track but a nice palette cleanser before Out of Time. It is not until Think Tank is experienced, consciously and as a whole, where the gentle dissatisfaction of Out of Time comes through. It is a staple of the modern Blur set but to think it came from this century instead of the last is a remarkable realisation for those spaced out on coffees and cheap booze. 

Repetitive flickers on Crazy Beat and the warped robotic voice leave much to be desired before the elevator-like music of Good Song crashes through. Think Tank has the benefit of being underrated in all the right spots. It means the slow flow from Dave Rowntree on Good Song is given better appreciation. Think Tank whines away with longer-form tracks more often than not. No signs of the hits which preceded this Blur record and rightly so. On The Way To The Club is another sturdy track which clamours for a style outside of the obvious Gorillaz presentation Albarn now brings the band. It is hard to figure it as a Blur project when the major changes at play are thanks to innovations elsewhere, but Think Tank may be one of the better displays from the band.  

Blur is in a crisis with Think Tank. The likes of We Got a File On You sound completely unlike the band, not just away from their style but completely claimed by some other band. A short punk number which might as well slot into the throwaway records of the 1970s movement. If that is the aim then so be it, but the funky bassline Alex James is controlling through these latter stages, particularly the stunted Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club feels frankly Happy Mondays in orientation and style. Maybe that is the point. Blur hope to reconnect with those Madchester flirtations of their first album and in doing so provide themselves with a synth machine to level off the latter half of what was, for some time, their final record.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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