It’s been 8 years since Blur released their ‘latest’ album Think Tank. It was their first release to not feature lead guitarist and co-founding member Graham Coxon (apart from the final track ‘Battery In Your Leg’) and it was massively apparent in the song-writing and arrangements. However every Blur album is different and should be judged on it’s own merit and not compared to anything that came before.
The band started recording the album in late 2001 at Albarn’s Studio 13 in London before moving to Marrakech in Morocco, and finally ending in a barn in Devon. There’s definitely a very loose feel throughout the album and the songs are very jam based, relying less on guitar and more on simple background instruments such as acoustic guitars, arabic instruments and string sections. It’s a beautiful album from start to finish with many of the lyrics about Coxon not being a part of the band anymore.
- Out Of Time
- Crazy Beat
- Good Song
- On The Way To The Club
- Brothers and Sisters
- We’ve Got A File On You
- Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club
- Sweet Song
- Gene By Gene
- Battery In Your Leg
Personally, I can’t fault this album as I love every track. ‘Battery In Your Leg’ is one of the most beautiful and sad songs that Blur ever wrote and the only track on the album that Coxon featured on. The song features Albarn on piano and some of the most spectacular guitar sounds that you will ever hear on a recording. Coxon is a master of the guitar and it seems that he can get any sound out of it, and they’re all there in this track. He sounds like an aeroplane taking off and the guitar solo with a large amount of reverb is so haunting it’s unbelievable.
‘Ambulance’, ‘Good Song’ and ‘Sweet Song’ feature Albarn at his lyrical best. ‘Sweet Song’ is another favourite of mine and again features Albarn on piano with an acoustic guitar and simple percussion and backing vocals behind him. The lyric ‘I hope I see the good in you come back again, I just believed in you’ brings a tear to the eye as he’s singing about his friend Coxon not being in the band anymore. ‘Good Song’ is a simple acoustic guitar based track, and again features stunning lyrics. Other tracks such as ‘We’ve Got A File On You’ and ‘Brothers and Sisters’ bring out a more attacking Blur with feisty guitar parts and lyrics.
Two tracks were produced by Fatboy Slim and this is rumoured to be one of the reasons why Coxon didn’t want any part of the album. These songs are ‘Crazy Beat’ and ‘Gene by Gene’ and they definitely could have been a lot better with a different producer. Fatboy Slim is good doing his own thing, but Blur are a much bigger animal and he didn’t do the songs justice at all as they feature electronic sampling which just isn’t Blur at all. The songs are good, but the two weakest on the album.
There is pregap hidden track on Think Tank called ‘Me, White Noise’ and you can only listen to it be rewinding the album BEFORE the first track. A genius way to hide a song. It features Phil Daniels on vocals (Parklife) and is one of the only Blur song to feature swearing. Apparently it was written and recorded in a drunken haze in Devon. It’s so different to anything Blur have ever done, but it’s fantastic.
The Think Tank b-sides are also worth listening to. They include three more tracks that Coxon featured on which are ‘The Outsider’, ‘Morricone’ and the stunning ‘Some Glad Morning’ which I think should have been an album track. The other b-sides are ‘Don’t Be’, ‘Money Makes Me Crazy’, ‘Tune 2’, ‘Colours’ and an alternate version of ‘Me, White Noise’ with Albarn on vocals. There were a vast quantity of songs recorded in the sessions for the album which apparently numbered into the 40’s. A pity less than half have been released.
Some say Think Tank is more of a Gorillaz album than a Blur album due to Albarn being more in control of the whole process than on any of their previous records. But it’s definitely a Blur album, you can just hear it. I was lucky enough to see Blur play reunion shows in 2009 when Coxon came back to the band, and they even played ‘Battery In Your Leg’ at one of them. But just the once. It was fantastic. However if they ever play live again I highly doubt any of the tracks on Think Tank will be included in sets. Blur fans see it as a very dark period in the bands history, as do the band themselves. But it’s a great album if you put everything aside and I thoroughly recommend it.