By Falice Chin

Think Tank, Blur’s seventh album, sounds like it should be much harder to appreciate. Analog synths bubble and churn, wah pedals manipulate and vocals deteriorate into sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers’ “Annoying Song.” It sounds like an experiment, and experiments are supposed to be challenging and frustrating.

To a point, this is true.

There are a few misfires, accompanied by some atmospherics and more than a few pretensions. On the other hand, the band’s sense of melody is certainly intact. So is singer Damon Albarn’s sense of humor, particularly on the track “Brothers and Sisters.” Even their trademark diversity is still there, from the mellow dance groove of “Ambulance” to the Supergrass fuzz-rock of “We’ve Got a File on You” to the plaintive, pretty “Out of Time.” Blur are masters of pop-songcraft, and this ability bleeds through into nearly every song, making the whole thing more accessible than it has any right to be. Those who associate the band with “Song 2” and nothing else will probably be surprised. Anyone who has followed Albarn through his Gorillaz side-project won’t be so shocked.

Those who have heard 13 (the band’s previous album) will recognize Think Tank as a natural progression–much less sombre but equally mature. It is undoubtedly an excellent album. Still, North America makes a habit of ignoring this band, and Think Tank doesn’t seem set to change that.

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