Monday, April 4, 2011

A few thoughts on Blur's Think Tank, The Gorillaz, and Damon Albarn

Think Tank's Cover Art, Created by the brilliant Banksy

So this will seem more like some sort of analysis than an actual review, and since I have the pleasure of having my own blog, I can pretty much write this any way I long as you the reader are satisfied, titillated and mystified by the soft caress of my wordplay.

Right to the nitty gritty:

In celebration of the recent release of the Gorillaz' Revolving Doors and Doncamatic maxi-singles I want to examine the consistent magnificene of all of Gorillaz work opposed to the spurt of brilliance of Blur's Think Tank.

What follows is complete staunch opinion--I tend to be hesitant in voicing my more trivial convictions but I'd like to do so today.

I bought Blur's Think Tank in 2003 the year of its release. It was amazing. It is probably--and this is a very lofty statement--my favorite albums of all time. The single weak spot rests with the song "Crazy Beat" which while failing to live up to the astronomical artistic standard of the rest of the album still manages to be an infectious song that doesn't completely ruin the mood of an otherwise pitch perfect album.

Think Tank is home to many temperaments. While it is classified as a alt rock album there are definite electronic, jazz, and other unclassifiable facets that lend the album its most transcendent moments. The instrumental arrangements are unique and intricate--the work of Albarn and Blur's other members, guitarist Graham Coxon (who actually left the band before this album was created-- Albarn picked up the slack), bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree.

Albarn's voice is as haunting and distinct as it has ever been whether it's weaving through the psychadelic twangs of a Gorillaz juggernaut or drifting softly over the moody drone of Massive Attack's "Saturday Come Slow". It is often the custom of an album to have the lead lyricists voice serve as the centerpiece, Think Tank makes it clear that the instrumentation deserves consideration and shine.

There are many mind-blowers on this album, "Out of Time" is the song that introduced me to the band and boasts a melody that I never tire of, however it is not the album's greatest offering. The moody thump of "Good Song" belies the slow and dreamy voice that Albarn pairs with the instrumentation, and the lyrics come through clear and stark and speak of a beauty the song itself drives home while a song like "On The Way to the Club" reveals itself slowly with a bassline that rivets the ears and lyrics that drift slowly over a tempo that seems more upbeat than the voice that accompanies it.

"Caravan" is the definitiion of moody (I love the word moody, read my other music posts and you'll see, but it's because it's the perfect word to describe many of the songs on this album as well as the album as a whole. The New Oxford American Dictionary (Kindle edition) defines moody as 'given to unpredictable changes of mood, especially sudden bouts of gloominess or sulleness'<< exactly!)

I could go on, breaking down every song on the album, but that would be boring and I don't feel like being more long-winded than I will probably be.  I rather take this moment to focus on writing about my two favorite songs on the album, which also happen to be the most somber. I am a somber person by nature, don't let this bombastic online persona fool you. Still waters, however, run deep.

"Sweet Song" is a piano laced ballad that speaks of losing a love and although not all can relate, empathy is pulled from the very depths of the most heartless once the song has run its course. Lyrics of note, "So I ween myself off slowly". I don't even need to say any more than that.

The album closes with the borderline depressing "Battery in Your Leg" which eclipses "Sweet Song" only marginally in being my favorite. The melody does unexpected things. It surprises you. It echoes into the ears and the lyrics speak of giving up. Highs and lows assail the ears, twangs accompany cathartic pleas along guitar riffs that are unlike anything I've ever heard (thanks Coxon)--MOODY.

I absolutely adore Think Tank. All these years after its release the songs still hit me somewhere deep in the incensing darkness of my soul, so naturally I figured I would love all of Blurs work. Nope. I tried. Think Tank opened my mind to the myriad of music I enjoy to this day but the albums that preceeded it were not my cup of tea which was a very confusing pill to swallow. How could the band churn out this masterpiece in the face of internal conflict no less and right before disbanding (they have since reunited), but have earlier works created when the band was presumably more cohesive fall short of Think Tank's imaginitive concepts, instrumentation and lyrical delivery? One could venture to say that Coxon's minimal involvement with the album created music that was more pleasing to my ears, but that couldn't be the case because he leant a guitar line to my fave, "Battery in Your Leg".

Think Tank was also the point where Albarn took over completely, and his influences were felt most strongly on this album, and I am a diehard Damon Albarn fan, and why wouldn't I be? He created the Gorillaz!

Unlike Blur, the Gorillaz are immune to missteps. I own every album, every B-side, G-side, every random release, and they never disappoint. Albarn makes magic with the Gorillaz which is an abstract band--made up of animated members that bring character to music that transcends proper classification. Guests fly by leaving their mark on beats that could send a lesser producer to seek a career reassessment test, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Dennis Hopper, Phi Life Cypher, De La Soul, Lou Reed and a host of others.

So I say all that to say, I heart you Damon Albarn. You are my musical muse and though not my only, you are in good company, I assure you.

What a weak conclusion. But that's how it goes sometimes.

Blur Discography--decide if you like the earlier works more or less:

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