Happy 15th: Blur, THINK TANK

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

15 years ago this week, Blur released their seventh studio album, an LP which for about a dozen years looked like it was going to be the band’s final album.

Produced variously by Norman Cook, Ben Hillier, William Orbit, and the band themselves, THINK TANK was recorded between November 2001 and November 2002, with sessions taking place in London, Morocco, and Devon. Given the success found by Damon Albarn with his side project, Gorillaz, it’s no surprise that he was the final member of Blur to decide that it was time to head back into the studio to work on new material, but he eventually signed on.

Given the quirkiness of the band’s previous album, 13, it would’ve been reasonable to expect something just as eccentric this time around, but Albarn nixed that idea in interviews at the time. "I'm trying to go back to the kind of songwriting aesthetic I had on Parklife,” he told Jam! Showbiz at the time. “They won't be arranged in the same way at all – they'll just be songs that are accessible to the public."

The process of recording THINK TANK was not an easy one, with Graham Coxon dealing with both alcoholism and depression. Indeed, he neglected to tell the rest of the band that he was unable to attend the initial recording session for the album, leading them to tart recording without him. When he made it to the next sessions, there was tension and awkwardness, and although he stuck around, he ended up leaving the band at the end of the sessions. 

Whether it’s because of Coxon’s absence or not, THINK TANK ended up being not nearly as accessible as Albarn had implied that it would be in his original remarks. It nonetheless proved to be a commercial and critical success, however, earning appearances in a number of Album of the Year lists. Inevitably, it was less successful in the US than in the UK, only climbing to #56 on the Billboard 200, but it topped the UK chart, which certainly qualifies as commercial success no matter how you define the phrase.

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