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Blur

Think Tank (Virgin)

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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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