Blur, Think Tank (Explicit)
A bewitching, modest album rich with texture and imagination
By the time Blur reconvened to record Think Tank in 2002, both Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn had begun crafting distinct identities as solo artists. Where Coxon committed his jagged, lo-fi compositions to a bedroom four-track, Albarn's ambitions for musical collaboration continued to expand, thanks to his Oxfam-sponsored travels. Revitalized by a new set of influences, Albarn captained Blur toward looser song structures, a greater reliance on sampling and keyboards and, thanks to Coxon's departure early in the Think Tank sessions, a less guitar-based sound. It's a bewitching, modest album rich with texture and imagination. At times, its triumphs are deeply unexpected: A Moroccan orchestra accompanies them on the lovely single "Out of Time" while a dubby ambience suffuses "Ambulance." Yet they still sound like Blur. The trio looked elsewhere to replace Coxon's lost heft: "Brothers and Sisters" is built on layers of delicately overdubbed vocals; bright, '80s synths shoot through the joyous "Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club"; and Fatboy Slim's machinery helps fill out the chaos of the unusually generic "Crazy Beat." "So I wean myself off slowly," Albarn sings with an affected airiness on the radiant "Sweet Song." He's anticipating the band's impending dissolution. But between Think Tank's fragile, globetrotting sound and its weary, lightly post-9/11 lyricism, his latest reinvention was already under way.