Where I dig into something Iā€™ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

Portishead_-_DummyPortishead
Dummy
1994 – Go! Beat

Dummy is an album that was very much around, but avoided. I guess, in 1994, I was falling madly in love with guitar bands from the UK. The strange sophistication of this record and Portishead came second to, say, Supergrass‘s ‘Alright‘. An age thing.

I did hear a couple of the songs. Heck, I remember the TV ads for his album – this was a big deal. So some of the big songs from this album are familiar. I know of their acclaim, and I’ve heard bits and pieces from their later records.

And yes, this album was exactly what I expected. Which isn’t totally good thing. The same reason I’ve not ever really felt the need to explore this band is all over this record.

We probably don’t talk about trip hop now, and the groundbreaking sound of trip hop has been absorbed and seem normal. The album has an interesting sound, but even by the late 90s, Moby, the Chemical Brothers and all would make it mainstream.

Listening to it today, it just seems nice. It drifts by. Yes, that Barry-Meets-EDM thing is clever, but it is not arresting. The real highlights come when Beth Gibbon‘s voice just….GOES for it. ‘Sour Times‘, ‘Glory Box‘ and others kicks ass, as Gibbons gives it her all. Songs like It Could Be Sweet, however – so light that they float away.

Lyrically, its all a bunch of nonsense. There’s a sense of longing and drama, but there isn’t much to say. Maybe I’m just coming to this record when I’m too old, and I care about lyrics more than ever. But it hampers this record. Repeated listens, and I found it to be all surface, little feeling. Maybe if I held more leftist dinner parties…

Gibbons is a gifted singer, and Geoff Barrow has put together a very interesting soundscape. It sunds great in films, and film music is no doubt a big influence. It won the Mercury Prize, and it definitely pushed the conversation of music forward. It certainly hasn’t dated.

I’ve given this album weeks, and I’ll give it a few more. But as I suspected about Portishead for twenty years seems to hold ture – its not really my thing. And it comes down to the songwriting. Gibbons sounds like she’s tearing her heart out. Why is mine still intact and bored?

MOJO10_NeilYoung