Monday, April 07, 2008

Reviews: Portishead, "Third"

(Some Major Label)

Beth Gibbons, that one DJ guy and the guitarist who looked like Joe Strummer's (R.I.P.) illegitimate love child have abandoned their hiatus in favor of bringing us another album full of Gibbons' impeccable range of singing and the group's collective love of drug-den music.

Personally, I love "Portishead," "Dummy," and the "Glory Box EP." When music writers talk about encapsulating a moment of time within the context of audio recordings (see also: Bob Dylan, The Beatles/Beach Boys, Woody Guthrie), Portishead's albums from the 1990s fit snugly into that category. But for their first foray back into the new century, there's a considerable tumble that Beth Gibbons and gang face: the passing of time.

Unlike the likeminded Morcheeba and Supreme Beings of Leisure, Portishead's absence from the music scene only served as a detriment. While the afforementioned Morcheeba and SBoL were able to grow and implode in their own right, Portishead's vanishing act made them a "Hey remember that band staple" instead of cultivating a cult status like someone like Bjork or Eddie and the Cruisers.

This sentiment is reflected in Portishead's "Third" which acts more like a continuation of their beaten-to-death contribution to the trip-hop genre. "Third" would have worked really well in 1999 to 2001. But in 2008, it sounds dated and doesn't even harken back to nostalgic days. If anything, it seems like a really sad cash-in.

What I'm most disappointed is that the album sounds like one, long song. It could be argued that Portishead's previous efforts also rang of a similar continuity, but "Dummy" and "Self-Titled" seem to be more geniune. The songs are really difficult to distinguish from another and honestly, I would've preferred another Beth Gibbons solo album, rather than this sad ghost of an album from an equally sad group of musicians.

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