Blur: Think Tank

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Blur

Album: Think Tank
Label: Virgin/Parlophone

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Henry Rollins' recent musical offerings with Rollins Band haven't seemed particularly inspired—there's a little too much huffing and puffing about how 1) you are weak, and 2) I hate you, because you are weak—but his best spoken-word stuff is brilliant and hilarious. Rollins is a disarmingly self-effacing sort, and his storytelling and comic timing are remarkable. Think Tank, his first spoken-word recording since 1993's The Boxed Life, may be his best yet. Compiling more than two hours of live tracks recorded in Chicago and Australia, the album is loaded with engrossing stories, comic riffs, and fiery rants. The first disc stays rooted in surprisingly familiar stand-up-comedy terrain (airports, the difference between men and women, El Niño, etc.), but it's all projected through a magnified Rollins filter. It's a hyperactive set—recorded on his 37th birthday this past February—and it's hard not to get a huge kick out of it. "The Gay Thing," for example, evolves from an anti-homophobia lecture into an assortment of funny gags about sexuality, and Rollins does an admirable job keeping himself the butt of his own jokes. The second disc, recorded last year, is Rollins at his storytelling best, with long narratives (five in 74 minutes) about forgetting lyrics on stage in Australia, accidentally kneeing himself in the head and knocking himself out in front of an enormous crowd in Brazil, eating horrid food in Moscow, visiting a dying teenager in Melbourne, and sending prank faxes to his throat doctor. Rollins is fascinatingly contradictory, the sort of guy who puts a hilarious caricature of himself on his album cover, yet closes his liner notes with, "Rejoice, as we will destroy racism in our lifetime." All those quirks and contradictions and mannerisms make him an exceptionally entertaining storyteller, and help make Think Tank the best spoken-word album in years.

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