One of this year's most highly-anticipated albums was also one that was leaked the earliest via the Interweb, Blur's Think Tank. So while the album was just released this week officially, many people, myself included, have already spent weeks with the record. No matter, it's still new to a lot of folks. Think Tank is a distinct divergence from albums past, as the separation from guitarist Graham Coxon has sent the London trio (now a quartet with the addition of Verve axeman Simon Tong, but he didn't feature on the album) into a more diverse, yet less guitar-dependent headspace. Guitars do still feature on a few tracks on the band's seventh studio work, most prominently on the Fatboy Slim- produced jumparound masterpiece, "Crazy Beat," and the obligatory once-an-album punky freakout that is "We've Got A File On You," but Think Tank relies more on the world music influences of frontman Damon Albarn's Mali Music album, as well as his time with Gorillaz than on the six-string. "Caravan," "On The Way To The Club," and album opener "Ambulance" all incorporate aspects of world music or downtempo electronica to bring the Blur of 2003 to a wholly new place, based primarily on more minimalist sounds and depending greatly on the many vocal talents of Albarn. And as on previous works, the band prove their genius also lies in beautiful balladry, as first UK single "Out Of Time" and the achingly gorgeous "sweet Song" can well attest. End result: Blur version 2003 is much different than past incarnations, but you wouldn't expect a band like Blur to stagnate, would you? I'd think not.
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN