Blur

You Better 'Think'

BlurOne rumor had it that Blur was making a world-music album. Another held that the band's seventh set would be a dance record. The actual recording, "Think Tank," is neither. Instead, Blur has delivered radical modern rock that juxtaposes sonic invention with some of the sweetest pop tunes that frontman Damon Albarn has ever written. "We're in love with melody," Albarn notes. "But I think we're also adventurous musically. This is the first record where those two elements have truly come together."

Due this week from Virgin, "Think Tank" is the band's first album as a trio, following the departure of guitarist/founding member Graham Coxon. It also marks Blur's return from the lengthy four-year sabbatical that followed the release of 1999's "13." The album comes on the back of considerable speculation about the band's future, fueled by Albarn's recent pursuit of several successful side projects, including film soundtracks; hip-hop/dance act Gorillaz; his own record label, Honest Jon's; and African fusion album "Mali Music."

Overall, guitars (Coxon is only featured on one cut), ambient flourishes, and a variety of beats and rhythms create a sweetly exotic, at times rough-around-the-edges foundation on the set. Albarn, who wonders about love throughout, while watching "the world spinning gently out of time" (the Talking Heads-hued "Out of Time"), sounds positively at home. "You have to go out and find your sense of identity as a musician," he notes. "I'm still looking for that, and I expect that I'm going to spend my whole life doing it."