My favorite member of Blur has always been the now-prodigal guitarist Graham Coxon. As much as I enjoy singer Damon Albarn’s casual indictment of modern British life, Coxon was the heart and soul of the music, able to create the perfect riff to push a song along while also knowing when to step back and let the other instruments take the spotlight.
Think Tank is Blur’s first album without Coxon manning the six-string, leaving Albarn with double duty. What results is Albarn leading Blur’s remaining members on a guided trip of his what-I-did-last-year museum. They play the part of Saharan hobos flailing out Saturday morning hip-hop. Much to my surprise, it actually works quite well. Morning-after songs “Good Song,” “Out of Time” and “Sweet Song” are as touching as anything else in Blur’s catalog. The Fatboy Slim produced “Crazy Beat” and “Gene By Gene,” like most club rock, sweat and carouse well while keeping an eye on their rapidly approaching expiration date.
Albarn knows he doesn’t have enough skill to fill Coxon’s empty shoes and provides appropriately simple, plunky riffs. More often than not though, bass, keyboards, synths, samples and an occasional saxophone are called upon to supply both the melody and provide the rhythm.
The final track, “Battery in Your Leg,” is Coxon’s only appearance on the album, and the dirty, tear-stained jangle he gives the song is just wonderful. It’s a good thing this song was placed at the end of the album because after hearing it, no matter now much I’ve enjoyed Think Tank in its final form, I can’t help but wonder how much better this album could’ve been with Blur at full strength. Maybe next time.