Portishead-Third

From the opening Fluke like drumbeat on ‘Silence’ it feels good to have Portishead back, like an old friend, after all its been ten years. As if you weren’t excited enough at the prospect when Beth’s vocals come in after about two minutes it’s like the whole gang is back together. From the offset its obvious you are hearing a Portishead record but also its very different, darker, slightly more sinister than before, like its been brooding away, plotting its comeback very carefully. Still present are the film soundtrack strings, the low fi deck work and hauntingly breathed vocals but now it feels like there’s more, more substance, more menace, blood on the decks. ‘Hunter’ glides along like an early Goldfrapp number before a deep jaws approaching boom fills out the chorus. ‘Nylon smile’ sounds like Bjork locked in a dark room and the lyrics don’t help ‘I’d like to laugh at what you said, but I can’t find a smile’ and when Beth sings the line ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you’ you sense the double meaning could go either way. ‘The rip’ with its Theremin 1950 alien invasion noises is closest to the bands previous outings and a little light relief from the overpowering nature of the previous few tracks. ‘Plastic’ has the best noises and an off beat drum roll that ushers in a full on chorus ‘you know that life turns me’ as the sounds crash like a musical wave against a crumbling ear wall. At nearly seven minutes ‘We carry on’ is ‘Earth intruders’ big brother and a brilliant centre piece that dominates the middle of the record like its flaunting an asbo from the other tracks. ‘Deep water’ is next and a bizarre if maybe pointless ukulele ditty that feels out of place completely, thankfully its short and ‘Machine gun’ returns us to the musical no mans land where beats are bullets and Beth becomes a tempting siren. ‘Small’ is the closest you will get to the old Portishead here and again at nearly seven minutes it’s a beast of a tune that still manages to be creepy and brilliant all at once. You could never accuse ‘Magic doors’ of needing more cowbell as that is the main beats but with a phat piano bringing up the rear its perfect to make way for the drunken mariachi trumpets that sneak in. Final track ‘Threads’ is the one that sounds like it should be in a film with its echoing strings building to a crescendo it’s a fitting closer. On first listen apart from track one I must admit I wasn’t convinced, but the more I have lived with this record the more it gets under my skin and I realise how amazing it is, the band have lived with it for ten years, what I wonder will we be saying in ten years about this most anticipated of comebacks, I think that it is genius, timeless and will be heralded as great record for many years to come. Thank god they got through all their personal issues to finally get this record out, because the world is a better place with this in it.

 

third

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