This third album in a short series of releases spanning almost 15 years is a genuine, original sequel to the genre they previously helped pioneer. The reason such a general statement must be made is because of all the other reviews I have read where it is said that the album does not sound like Portishead anymore.
I couldn't disagree more. This album fits right in with the evolution of the music as it was heading in the mid 90's. It isn't quite 90's trip-hop but it does capture the feel the original albums had. I am glad to add it to my collection and I am anxious to hear more. Hopefully it won't take them over 10 years to release the next album. I don't think Beth Gibbons' , the lead singer, voice can handle that broad spectrum of notes in old age. If you were a fan of the first two, you will like this Third. If you are interested in reading through my personal background as to how I became a fan, click here. Below is a track by track review.
IF YOU TRULY WANT TO ENJOY THIS ALBUM, SIT IN THE DARK WITH A GREAT PAIR OF HEADPHONES. DON'T LET ANY OF YOUR OTHER SENSES DISTRACT YOU.
Silence - This song starts of clearly making its point that the music has changed. A very tribal drum rhythm that still has looping riffs and bass plucks that sound very much like what you'd expect from Portishead. I could do without some of the off-beat sound effects in the background. I wish they would stick to the rhythm here. About halfway through, Beth's voice clears through the noise and the beat picks up again. Very fun.
Hunter - Don't confuse this for Dido's Hunter. Whatever you do, don't do that! The guitar strums remind me of spaghetti westerns or a very, very sad woman left at the altar.
Nylon Smile - This sounds very new. This track sounds exactly what I expected of the new generation of Portishead. The ring of the haunting bell, the reverse instruments and the great, tremble-y vocals tie this together in a cool beatnik package.
The Rip - This starts of with a throwback tone with a "Humming" flavor. The acoustic guitar loop though adds some beach barbecue relaxation. The lyrics are as confusing in this track as any. White Horses? Halfway through, the track picks up and it just sounds really cool. From acoustic to industrial. Reminds me of really great 16-Bit video game tunes.
Plastic - More than any other, this song sounds like it could totally fit in with the second Portishead album. *Great with earphones!
We Carry On - Oh what I wouldn't do to selectively reduce the volume of certain instruments. That tone, I get what he was doing but its too damn loud. I've never been to a rave but this song needs smoke, lasers, spinning lights and jumping people. Oh and get rid of that ukulele and military drummer boy.
Deep Water - This is a WTF song. I love it. But this is NOT Portishead. I love Hawaiian music and that is what this song is. I imagine some person singing this on a lazy afternoon in Maui after a delicious luau.
Machine Gun - All I can say is that it takes getting used to. The drums sound as musical as guns can sound. Interesting mix. This won't be my favorite track on the album though. I would like to hear a remix of the vocals with a different beat.
Small - There are a couple of really creepy Halloween songs on this album and this is one of them. If you celebrate Halloween and have music playing outside as the kids come tricking and treating, this one may work for you. Reminds me of some of the better Doom II tracks when the beat picks up about half way through.
Magic Doors - At first you think its going to be another annoying tone song but it goes away and thankfully doesn't return. Unfortunately the beat is uninspired. I really don't like the way they are using the snare this time around. The piano though reminds me of "Teardrop" the House intro song that Portishead collaborated with Massive Attack on. Oh and that saxophone or trumpet sounds like something a gassy elephant was trying to pass through its system. Cut it.
Threads - Easily my favorite track on the album. The guitar alone sets you into a smooth groove. The bass perfectly accentuates Beth's arching voice. I imagine this as "The Purgatory Song." I see a cemetery, an open grave and a dead bride confused about her continued existence. Is she alive? Is she dead? Where is she? Its dark, foggy and she's roaming the cemetery in her dirty, bloody wedding dress. Twitching. Listen to the way her voice trembles at the end!
Stand, stand, damned one
I am one
Where do I go?
The camera lifts out of the dead, foggy cemetery lit only by a full moon.
I love cliche Halloween and recommend this album to any Portishead fans or people with open minds to trip-notic music.
But first, listen to their other two.