Britpop, Nu metal, new rave, the second coming of radio friendly AOR and The bloody Libertines may all have come and gone in the eleven years since Portishead last graced us with their presence, but on first listen to ‘Machine Gun’ and its incisive bass-heavy percussion you wouldn’t even think any of the aforementioned even existed.
Well, maybe in the world of Beth Gibbons, Adrian Uttley and Geoff Barrow they didn’t, as between them they’ve managed to create possibly the heaviest sounding record any fan of their previous works could have possibly imagined, no matter how unlikely that may sound.
Bizarrely labelled as forerunners of the mid-nineties “dinner party set” alongside the more worthy of the name likes of Everything But The Girl and Moloko, anyone who was fortunate enough to witness their All Tomorrow’s Parties performances prior to last Christmas, or even take a peek at the artists they chose to appear on the bill alongside them must surely have realised that their impending third album (er, ‘Third’) wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill stroll along pastures well-trodden and tarnished.
Harsh and brutal in sound, the only aspect reminiscent of Portishead’s previous work is the unmistakeable sound of Beth Gibbons’ voice, still sounding as fragile and desolate as ever, but even more detached when combined with such a foreboding accompaniment.
Although we’ve barely reached the other side of Easter, ‘Machine Gun’ is already single of the year material and makes counting the days off until the arrival of that ‘Third’ record that little bit more exciting.
A sincere welcome back.
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