Blur

Think Tank (Virgin)

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Lost in La Mancha Narrated by Jeff Bridges
Radiohead may receive the lion's share of attention for its robotic reinventions, but fellow Brits Blur are similarly skilled musical chameleons. Beginning as a quartet of mop-topped lads with a knack for Technicolor pop hooks, they evolved from the cheeky eccentricities of 1994's Parklife to lo-fi noise and abstract indie rock by 1999's fuzz-toned 13.

Think Tank, the first Blur album since the departure of guitarist Graham Coxon, further eschews jaunty song structure. Aside from the lurching guitar dirtbombs on the Fatboy Slim-produced "Crazy Beat," Tank's mix of organic strumming and spacey electronics is as mellow as a narcotics-induced haze. Majestic harmonies from a Moroccan string group rustle softly on "Out of Time," faint piano washes over "Sweet Song," and throbbing, laid-back drums drive "Good Song." Even Tank's spikier moments -- "Jets" features manic saxophone runs; "Gene by Gene," exotic rhythms; "Brothers and Sisters," peals of computerized weirdness -- are constructed with stress-free care. Think Tank sounds like Blur in slow motion; it lacks the immediacy that drove the band's earlier work. Nevertheless, the album ends up being Blur's most rewarding and cohesive effort since The Great Escape.

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