Blur

Think Tank (EMI)

Some albums shouldn't be reviewed till they've been out a while; some need time to simmer on the digital hotplate to allow for maximum flavor to savor. Had this been written a month ago, when the advance arrived, it would have been waved off as too woefully flaccid to overcome the absence of the guitarist who marbled the muscle just so. But time diminishes expectation and eradicates bias, so it's possible to listen to Blur Part II without judging it against past performance; and so good riddance, Graham Coxon, and Godspeed. Gone, likely for good, are the arena-rock whoo-hoos and caffeinated buzzes and choral swells; in their place are barely plucked strings and barely plinked pianos and temperate-tiny-tinny melodies and lovesick lyrics about a world-music white mon (or Damon) offering up a "Good Song," then a "Sweet Song" and 13 others to fill in the gaps between a sunrise smile and sunset frown.

The longtime acolyte will insist Think Tankbores because it's got no surge or spark, save for two offerings that feel like a step backward into spatial guest Fatboy Slim's lap (cf. "Crazy Beat," otherwise known as "Song 2.1," and "We've Got a File on You," which lives up to its titular threat). Blur's blurry now, pardon, in its Kid Aphase, if the little charmer wasn't so medicated for its front man's A.D.D.; best of all is "Out of Time," so dreamy it's nearly dreary and redeemed in large part because Albarn is doing Paul Weller one better by actually sounding engaged in his romance. There's nothing so "Tender" here, and you'd be forgiven for thinking Albarn's trips twixt Mali and Morocco were made in the pursuit of something smokable; there's still a Gorillaz in our midst, which means Albarn's capable of mistaking tedious for ambient. But it'll grow on you, if like a fungus.

 
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