Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Portishead "Third" review

In conjunction with my just-now-posted top 10 list, here's a review I wrote for the #1 album of the year: Portishead's "Third". Unabridged and very slightly tweaked from the original draft. Enjoy!

Published April 17, 2008 in The Red & Black


The trip-hop pioneers unleash their first proper release since 1997. Considering its decade-long hiatus, Portishead has completely reinvented its sound, bearing little resemblance to the spacey, beat-driven music that put it on the map in the ’90s.

One thing is for certain: “Third” is a dark album. Portishead has created a gloomy sonic underworld filled with ethereal sounds and textured beats. The production is detached yet enticing, and lead vocalist Beth Gibbons sounds – if possible – more haunting and emotional than she ever has before.

Opener “Silence” begins with an eerie, twisting chord progression set to a rollicking tempo. It ends appropriately enough, cutting to complete silence without any warning whatsoever.

The darkness continues on “Nylon Smile”, which features one of Gibbons’ most unsettling melodies. “We Carry On” sports a relentless industrial groove, while the skittering beat and droning synths of “Plastic” are nothing short of frightening.

Portishead delivers a few unexpected gems as well. “Hunter”, one of the album’s best songs, is a misty jazz piece that gets torn apart by rebellious distorted guitar and manic synth melodies.

The gothic folk of “Deep Water” is brilliant, but it’s a brief lull before the earth-shattering pulse of the ominous “Machine Gun” drops and leaves the listener breathless and begging for more.

Elsewhere “The Rip” morphs from plaintive acoustic ballad into epic rocker, and “Magic Doors” incorporates off-kilter psychedelia complete with cowbell.

“Third” ultimately proves Portishead is still a creative force to be reckoned with after all these years. The band has thankfully retained all of its focus, its musical ability and, most importantly, its ambition.

VERDICT: Portishead’s extended hiatus has worked wonders: this a breathtaking, haunting album with no missteps.

1 comment:

Insert Songtitle said...

Will you play me some? I want to see this goodness for myself