Portishead – Third

Calxie #1: Album most likely to ruin a dinner party: Nominee 1 of 4

The sound of distraught anxiety on slow-acting horse tranquilizers. Their first album ‘Dummy’ utilised spy-movie style themes alongside narcotic-induced paranoia, smooth/jarring electronics and Beth Gibbons’ chameleonic vocals. Gibbons could change from trembling hostage to suave seductress so easily you’d be forgiven for thinking they had used different singers. For some bizarre reason though, the wine-and-dine yuppies loved it and played it to death at their dinner gatherings which makes no sense at all because ‘Dummy’ is such an uncomfortable, queasy record. Even so, the jangling unease in ‘Dummy’ is nothing compared to the band’s ‘Third’. Trying to relax while listening to this is like trying to laugh at a motionless infant inside a cage; even if it was possible, the idea of it borders on indecent. Saying it’s not relaxing is not a criticism since it was never meant to be relaxing – and most things that are intended to be “relaxing” are artistically vacuous (think Pan Pipe Moods and all the swill they used to sell in Debenhams). Criticising it for that would be like criticising the Mona Lisa for not telling jokes. ‘Third’, however, is about as grandiose and smart as nail-biting music gets and makes for addictive and exciting listening. Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley’s electronics and organic strings and drums are more cinematic than ever; it brings to mind sinister confrontations in rooms full of machinery, while Gibbons provides the emotional aspects with her ice-picking voice. Of course this review has to be brief as it’s just a quick run-down of nominees but suffice to say, an excellent and riveting record though it is, don’t play it with company over unless the company in question includes the protagonist from ‘Fight Club’, Edward Scissorhands, Ophelia from Hamlet  and Private Ryan.
Key Track: Silence
7

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