Friday, February 15, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 12)
Most of the acts that feature in this self-indulgent series will be responsible for a fair chunk of the vinyl and CDs that take up space here in Villain Towers. Today's however is an exception.
There's something really special about Dummy, the 1994 debut LP by Portishead that they never, in my humble opinion, ever came close to capturing again. Which means that outwith the debut LP, there's nothing more than a couple of later singles on the shelves.
I can pinpoint when I began to fall out of love with Portishead - it was May 1995 when I went to see them live in Edinburgh. It was a really hot ticket. The band were probably the most talked about new act in the UK at the time and every review said they were a sensational live experience. Maybe I caught them on a bad night. But the gig was one of the most boring I'd ever been to and I came away very disappointed. Dummy, having been a record I couldn't stop listening to, became associated with a major let down.
So I would reckon I've probably not listened to it in its entirety more than three or four times since the mid 90s. But I included it on the long-list for this series and played it again. And again. And then again a couple of day later as I made my way to and from work.
It's no surprise really that it has sold more than 800,000 copies in the UK alone. Critics fawned over it and it was one of the first records that I can recall the UK mainstream newspapers and magazines going completely ga-ga for. This was atypical:-
"Dummy mixes cocktail keyboards, spaghetti-western guitars, eerie tape loops, and dub-wise rhythms into what could be called `acid cabaret'....as musically compelling as it is emotionally chilling."
OK...I'll take a wee risk here with my next sentence.....
One of the reasons Dummy was a huge hit was because it was hip-hop,dub and soul for the white middle-classes.
There was no swearing, there were no loud unexpected passages of music, there was no political message being preached and it meandered along at a pace that was perfect background music while the chattering classes had their dinner parties. Going by that sort of description Dummy should be an LP that is bland, conservative, shallow and lacking passion. But one listen and you'll see that it's anything but.
Much of this is down to Beth Gibbons. It's a very laid back and relaxed vocal all the way through the album.Very rarely does she strain for notes the way that many female vocalist think is the only way to demonstrate that they have soul......there are times it sounds as if she has just picked up the lyric sheet and is not yet able to familiarise herself with the words. But her performance is absolutely flawless. And a perfect fit to the music.
mp3 : Portishead - Mysterons
mp3 : Portishead - Roads
mp3 : Portishead - Glory Box
Back to the jangly guitars for the next entry.