Classic Album Review :: Portishead

I don’t know how, but I kind of forgot about this album. It will always be one of my favourite albums from the decade of the ’90s, but somehow I have never written about it. I think I have this sick sense of personal ownership over it, like I am the only person who remembers this album even though Portishead were huge and sold incredibly well.

I think part of my hesitation is how there is no real instruments on the album. Portishead are one of the few acts that I jump to describe as Trip-Hop. That sleepy, almost dreamscape portrayal of soundscapes which only film better catches the emotions created by the sound.

Trip-Hop is one of the few genres that actually benefits from music videos, in my opinion. Still remaining completely unnecessary, The videos illustrate the worlds generated by the music. Few successfully capitalized on this as well as Portishead, even though they only released four videos over a career spanning from 1994 to around 2008 (as far as my research shows).

It is important to point out how 2008 is a softcap, as they went “silent” from 1997 to 2008 with little noise coming from their corner of the world. According to what I could find, they have done one-off teases to their fans and those still paying attention.

So, what about this album, I hear noone ask? As I mentioned before, it is quite important in my collection. It reminds me of a detective movie from the 1940’s. Heavy bass shots, mixed in with simple (but tasteful) drum loops. There are few albums that I can describe as “cool” with little else needing to explain what I mean, but this is very much a perfect example of exactly that.

Oh, her voice is a bit… different…? I am not saying that it is bad, by any stretch of the idea. Her ability is amazing and her range is unmatched. I completely understand if anyone is turned off by her tone, yet I implore you to listen again.

This song remains one of my favourite songs of all time. There is something perfect, and the video illustrates perfectly just how haunting the song is.

Classic Album Review :: Arab Strap – Elephant Shoe

Fuck, I love this album.

REVIEW OVER

I play: this album is pretty well of opposite of what people think I would be into. Not only is it primarily acoustic, the vocalist has a thick Scottish accent which makes it sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. What gets neglected is just how perfect it fits cold days sitting in front of a computer screen.

As always, my favourite track is the opening song, Cherubs. I opens with a very digital kick drum accenting the two and four beats of the measure. The majority of the song is carried by an almost etherial acoustic guitar and a ghostly piano line that dance gracefully over the vocals. Maybe it’s because of how almost stereotypical the accent is, but it feels like someone narrating over a dreamscape.

I cannot hear a bass in most of the album. The low end is filled by the guitar, and it is a risk that pays off. The almost minimalistic approach maintains a dream-like quality to every track. This is accentuated by the playing with structure.

Though it can be argue, the songs on this album seem to buck traditional organization in favour for an almost natural feel. Parts repeat when they don’t seem to have rhyme or reason to, other parts that feel like there should be a reprise with never return. It can either be frustrating or liberating. In some ways, I feel like it’s the best part. The feel of this album is the main selling point, and the incomplete frustration that occurs almost adds to it.

As mentioned, Cherubs is my favourite track. However, I cannot say that any song is not worth a listen. A few songs elaborate on the fake drums, which never detract from the music by the way. I actually appreciate the fact that the members knew that they were not able to perform the drums. That way, the hits are perfect for what needs to be played.

No one seems to know of this band. If you like this album, I recommend whatever you can find. I admit, I have done little research into this band before today. I can confirm that they get more elaborate with later albums (like how their is a full band on “The Last Romance”) and the structures remain somewhat the same.

Of course, I cannot mention this band without bringing up my friend Adam Evers and his EP that he released earlier this year (2019). Fantastic release that needs all the attention in the world.