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PCR #167 (Vol. 4, No. 23). This edition is for the week of June 2--8, 2003.
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LEDs     CD REVIEWS    by Terence Nuzum
CDs are rated 1 to 5 LEDs

Blur

Blur: Think Tank

Available at Amazon.com!

5 LEDS

Though Oasis has been labeled as The Beatles of the '90s, it is Blur, in retrospect, that in fact owns that title. Well sort of. If Oasis are The Beatles musically, then Blur are The Beatles in execution. They started off as shoegazer rock but by the 2nd and 3rd albums they had moved on to witty pop rock, and by 1999's 13 they were artistic successes. Part of their allure were the tunes of guitarist Graham Coxon. But, fast foward to 2003 and Coxon has left the band.

Think Tank, then, is left in the hands of songwriter/vocalist/frontman Damon Albarn. Albarn already proved himself with his African-tinged album Mali Music, and with Think Tank, has rocketed Blur to a new frontier in pop. The album is a new sound for Blur as it explores dub, trip-hop, African rythms and even Jazz. "Good Song" is their best pop tune since "To The End" and "Crazy Beat" their most potent pop punk since "Song 2". Most of Albarn's lyrics deal with love or disenchantment. Check out the lines of "Sweet Song":

I'm a darkened soul
My streets all pop music and gold
All our lives are on TV
You switch off and try to sleep
People get so lonely

The tracks Fatboy Slim produced are the album's single "Crazy Beat" which boasts an awesome punk guitar strum and "Gene By Gene", a funky dub number. "Jets" ends with a saxaphone freak-out that goes to show that Radiohead aren't the only former Brit rockers that can experiment with Jazz and come out winning. The coolest song on the album is "Out Of Time" with its inclusion of Morrocan musicians making it a laid back jazzy track. Blur experiment with funk on "Brothers And Sisters", a song about drugs and how we all take them whether it's aspirin or cocaine. The last song "Battery In Your Leg" (Coxon's only contribution), though you hate to say it, is the best and it is because of Coxon's lonely and touching guitar solos. They add dimension to an already deep song.

Coxon may be gone, but Albarn and company have proven that Blur no longer needs him and can actually move on with out him. Not to mention bassist Alex James can actually be heard on the record and finally be recognized as a damn great bassist. Coxon was obviously holding him back. Some things are for the better. Unlike most albums by bands that are suffering from a loss of a member, Think Tank comes off as a freedom for Blur. Think Tank is on one hand the end of an era and on another a new beginning. This may be their greatest album so far and the fact that they have been around for over 10 years means that they are here to stay. Now if we could only get Oasis to break up, the world of Britpop could live happily ever after.


Whirlwind Heat

Whirlwind Heat: Do rabbits wonder?

Available at Amazon.com!

2 LEDS

OK, hold the presses, I've found out where The White Stripes' bass went. It went to Whirlwind Heat. Of course that sounds promising especially since the album was produced by Jack White himself! Alas, it was not to be.

The Whirlwind Heat are decent at best and unlistenable at worst. They are a 3-piece combo of keyboards, bass, and drums. The resulting sound can only be described as fragmented. Most of the songs sound like a bunch of idiots noodling around in their garage. Sure Steve Damstra's bass is awesome but David Swanson's vocals are so atrocious on some tracks it makes Yoko Ono's noise experiments sound downright snappy. Swanson sounds like a cross between David Byrne and the punk screams of Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri. Of course that's a bad thing. The bass is the only thing keeping this a mild interest yet it in itself isn't very diverse. The so-called keyboards as far as I can tell don't even have a presence. Songs like "Black" (all the tracks are named after colors) sound like watered-down Liars' tracks and the lyrics to "Pink" are so ridiculous Beck would find them in bad taste.

The album does have some good tracks like "Purple" a Black Sabbath bass tune highlighted by the Sonic Youthesque chorus of "and anouk doesn't feel allright". But far too many tracks sound like Liars ripoffs, Minutemen retreads and plain unlistenable mess. They have been compared to Devo but that's saying a lot and insulting a great band. Whirlwind Heat aren't even in the same league.

Despite being produced by Jack White (which landed them a gig as opening act for The Stripes summer tour) they basically fail. Maybe if there were less tracks and more diversity they would be OK. Now they are a failed experiment. I can't imagine what the next album will sound like. Probably more of the same, unfortunately.


This issue's Digital Divide was composed in its entirety by Terence B. Nuzum, ©2003. Webpage design and all graphics herein, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.    All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.

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