On this day 20 years ago, Blur’s album Think Tank was released. The album featured artwork designed by the renowned and mysterious street artist Banksy, known for his satirical and socially conscious works.
Despite his fame in street art, Banksy has also lent his talents to collaborating with musicians and designing album covers. In this case, his collaboration with Blur resulted in a memorable album cover that is still celebrated today.
Think Tank by Blur
Blur’s Think Tank album represented a significant departure from their earlier work, as the band incorporated more electronic sounds and sampled rhythm loops. The legendary Ben Hillier produced the album with additional contributions from the legendary Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) and the accomplished William Orbit. The album’s theme was loosely centred around the complex themes of “love and politics,” with powerful anti-war messages recurring throughout the tracks. The album’s first single, “Out of Time,” was accompanied by a thought-provoking music video that was filmed on a US Navy warship in the Gulf, which showcased Damon Albarn’s passionate commitment to speaking out against war as a pacifist and as one of Britain’s most influential musicians.
Banksy, a renowned artist typically known for avoiding commercial work, was invited to design the album cover for Blur’s new album. Banksy accepted the commission for the album cover despite his usual reluctance towards commercial projects. When questioned about his decision, Banksy acknowledged that some may see it as a contradiction to be a part of a capitalistic venture while still maintaining artistic integrity, but also noted that in some cases, such as the Blur situation, the collaboration can be symbiotic.
“I’ve done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and [the commission was] quite a lot of money. I think that’s a really important distinction to make. If it’s something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn’t turn it to shit just because it’s commercial. Otherwise you’ve got to be a socialist rejecting capitalism altogether, because the idea that you can marry a quality product with a quality visual and be a part of that even though it’s capitalistic is sometimes a contradiction you can’t live with. But sometimes it’s pretty symbiotic, like the Blur situation.”Banksy
“Think Tank” refers to a carefully selected group of experts brought together by a government to brainstorm and generate ideas on a specific topic. Their ultimate goal is to provide valuable suggestions and recommendations that can be utilised to take action. A think tank can inform and guide government decision-making through their collective efforts.
UK /ˈθɪŋk ˌtæŋk/ US /ˈθɪŋk ˌtæŋk/
a group of experts brought together, usually by a government, to develop ideas on a particular subject and to make suggestions for actionCambridge Dictonary
Blur’s album, The Think Tank, is accompanied by an iconic artwork designed by the famous artist Banksy. The artwork depicts a couple embracing each other as they try to kiss, with a rose in the woman’s hand. Both of them are seen wearing vintage deep-sea diving helmets that symbolise the album’s ‘tank’ reference. This iconic image is featured on the album cover and all promotional posters, making it a symbolic representation of the album.
“Make Love, Not War”
The artwork of the album has been the subject of multiple interpretations, each offering a unique perspective on its meaning. Some suggest it serves as a powerful commentary on the themes of love and politics the album explores.
The helmets depicted in the artwork could be seen as symbolic of the barriers that hinder genuine human connections, while the kiss may represent the desire to overcome these barriers and connect on a deeper level.
Alternatively, the “Make Love, Not War” slogan that emerged as part of a counterculture movement in 1960s America rejected the Vietnam War and promoted love and compassion as alternatives to violence. This slogan became a powerful symbol of the movement, which rejected traditional values and embraced a more liberated lifestyle that included free love. For many young Americans, free love represented a way to reject the capitalist culture that they believed supported war and violence.
Ultimately, the “Make Love, Not War” slogan was adopted by anti-war activists around the world as a message of hope and love in the face of conflict and destruction.
Success for Both Artists
Blur’s 2003 album “Think Tank” was a remarkable success both artistically and politically, as it conveyed a strong anti-war message that resonated with a wide audience. The album’s popularity was evident in the United Kingdom charts, where it climbed to the top spot.
The album’s cover art, which was created by the renowned artist Banksy, was also a major talking point. The cover art gained immense popularity among art enthusiasts and the original artwork was sold at auction for £75,000 in 2007.
The collaboration between Blur and Banksy for the Think Tank album cover exemplifies the synergy that can result from diverse artistic forms and individuals working together to produce a thought-provoking and consciousness-raising piece. Banksy’s involvement in the creation of the album cover elevated the album’s concepts and produced an enduring image that continues to be acknowledged and admired in the present day.
If you’re interested in acquiring the ‘Think Tank’ poster, please check out the official extra large bus stop advert poster available on the Graffiti Street store. Additionally, we also offer the ‘Think Tank’ 12″ record album for sale.