Release: May 5th, 2003
Where to begin with this one, I guess in chronological order of how Blur’s Think Tank came into my life’s’ as good of a place as any. Damon Albarn influenced me immensely starting around mid-May when my brother first turned on “Lonely Press Play” off his debut solo album Everyday Robots. You could easily say it was love at first listen. I instantly became infatuated with Albarn’s voice and the simple, yet heavy lyrics on top of beautifully crafted rhythms and harmonies coming into my airspace. A couple of months and endless hours in between, Damon Albarn penetrated into my psyche. Concurrent with this time I had the privilege of seeing his live set at Bonnaroo, only solidifying Albarn as one of the most passionate voices of a generation. I will spare you the details because it would be just me ogling for four or five pages on how life changing it was.
Fast forward to about a month or so ago, after a summer of reveling in Everyday Robots and diving into the vaults of Plastic Beach, Demon Dayz, and more Gorillaz albums, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Damon Albarn’s work. Then Blur happened, just as quick as the sound of the band’s name, my whole Damon Albarn world came raveling apart at the seams. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t completely ignorant of Blur’s existence, I mean simply living in this commercialized world you’ll know Blur’s “Song 2” (famously in The Simpsons, South Park, London’s 2011 New Year’s Eve fireworks display, the list goes on and on). While scrolling for albums that sounded better on vinyl opposed to digital, I stumbled upon Think Tank.
Composed loosely as a concept album about as Albarn’s quoted “love and politics”, Think Tank came during a trying time for Blur. At the start of recording guitarist Graham Coxon found himself in rehab for alcohol problems and when he came out and headed to the recording studios, tensions flared. Results of the internal struggles left Coxon with minimal presence on the album and left most of the creative responsibilities to Albarn. Albarn himself faced some internal turmoil surrounding the 2001-2002 time period when the album’s recording took place. As a pacifist, Albarn struggled with the invasion of Afghanistan and the threat of western nations invading Iraq, reflected in his loose concept for the album. Albarn escaped the UK for some of the recording stating, “When it’s nice weather, it’s nice to be outside. I think the big studios are a con. They charge people to make less exciting records. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I mean, recording as it is now, you don’t need studios”, Blur found solace in Marakesh, Morocco for some of the recording.
Think Tank came to me last month at time of confusion and anxiety about the direction my life was heading toward. Lying restlessly in bed one night, “Out of Time” rang through my headphones and awoke some part of me, relinquishing some of my anxieties. Albarn’s voice in the chorus washed over me, clear as a bell, singing “And you’ve been so busy lately/ That you haven’t found the time/ To open up your mind/ And watch the world spinning, gently out of time”; a rallying cry for everyone to simply step back, fill your lungs and whole body with the world around you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the whole album is simply down tempo, the tracks “Crazy Beat”, “Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club”, and “Ambulance” are driven by heavy drum pad beats and catchy synth pop rhythms.
As well, Think Tank stands as Blur’s most electronically motivated and last full album as a complete band. The former rightfully so, Albarn’s increased interest at the time in hip hop, Mediterranean and African music, and electronic production propelled him to the creation of Demon Dayz. “Brothers and Sisters”, “On The Way To The Club”, “Caravan”, and “Sweet Song” exemplify the lo-fi electronic influences on the album. The same tracks foundations lie heavily in the fact Albarn didn’t have his lead guitarist and creative counterpart (Coxon) to help ease the burden, so Albarn relied on electronics to fill the void producing more spacey, echoing tracks. The lines from “Brothers and Sisters”, “Were all drug takers/ Give us something tonight” implore the world to rethink this fast passed world we’ve created, where we all need to take something just to get by.
Blur’s final album leaves the listener with a great deal to contemplate throughout the album, while providing tracks to simply dance and let go to. Think Tank will be an album I won’t soon forget, it showed me the gravity of living every day at light speed pace, and beauty in simply just step back and enjoy things while you can. Only furthering my appreciation/ borderline obsession with Damon Albarn.
Essential Tracks: “Out of Time”, “ On The Way To The Club”, Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club”