Portishead
Dummy


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
January 16th, 2005 | 417 replies | 48,096 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


#419 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums Ever
#95 on Q's Top 100 Albums Ever


Trip-hop? Some of you may be wondering, so here's a little history. In 1991, a group of people from Bristol, some previously members of a group called The Wild Bunch, came together to form a band called Massive Attack. The group was led by Robert Del Naja, known also as 3D. They recorded and released an album called Blue Lines, which proved itself to be a benchmark album of the 90s, and one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever. But hip-hop was almost too narrow a definition for it - while it was based in the hip-hop style of making music, it also incorporated chillout, and a little psychedelica. The critics soon labelled it 'trip-hop' - a term referring to chill-out hip-hop that - sterotypically - is listened to by stoners. With Massive Attack, Tricky, Sneaker Pimps, Portishead, and DJ Shadow as its leading lights, it has proved itself to be an incredibly fertile genre, with these acts and other, lesser-known ones releasing many great albums. Crucially, there's been very little rubbish released in the name of trip-hop, which is the precise reason I'd say it's my favourite genre of music.

This album, released in 1994, has proven itself to be one of the pillars of the genre. The band, essentially, is multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barrow (the tape-op for Massive Attack when Blue Lines was made), and singer Beth Gibbons. Yes, singer. This is an album steeped in hip-hop that features NO rapping whatsoever. All the instruments are recorded live, too, with the exception of the drums on It Could Be Sweet. So leave the prejudice at home.

At least, most people THINK it's just Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow. Adrian Utley certianly deserves a mention though. Guitarist recently ran a style file on him, and he once played with Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers, which should tell you something about his ability. The guitar parts on this album (although he is not on every track) are great. Subtle, and not exactly technically taxing, but great. There's some great use of chord inversions throughout, too, which I understand was partly down to his input. But I may be wrong there. He also plays bass on Pedastel, possibly the best bassline on the album. And his guitar work on Glory Box constitutes the album's high point.

That's not to talk down Beth Gibbons or Geoff Barrow. Beth was the star turn when this album was released; her voice was soon being called 'the most beautiful ever', and was drawing comparisons with Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Dusty Springfield, and just about any female soul singer you'd care to mention. I think that's a little too superlative, but she's certainly got some voice on her - fragile, tender, and soulful. Dusty Springfield is a fairly good comparison, as is - with hindsight - Eva Cassidy. Her lyrics are a plus point, too. Geoff Barrow? Well, it's hard to tell where his input starts or stops, to be honest, but the band was his idea, and he has writer credits on every song, so he's not exactly dispensable.

The quality of this album, and its ability to crossover to fans of any genre, is demonstrated by the fact that a live version of Glory Box, from a later album, is played on Classic FM, and on their TV channel. In fairness, Glory Box is the song that displays the least hip-hop influences, but I heard them play an orchestral version of Mysterons once, too, with the scratching left in.

The album only has one flaw - it dips in the middle. Mysterons and Glory Box are both amazing. Sour Times and It Could Be Sweet, also. But, while there's nothing wrong with tracks 5 through 9, they don't stand up to what's around them. That's not to say that they're bad, though. It may be because Glory Box casts such a long shadow. Although, you'll find these tracks sound great either in your headphones just as you're going to sleep, or when you've just had 2 or 3 glasses of red wine and are feeling in a very laid back, poetic kind of mood. (Incidentally, I find red wine always makes trip-hop better. :) )

This album comes thoroughly recommended to any fans of hip-hop (that's hip-hop music, not rap vocals), female soul vocalists, or anybody unfamiliar with trip-hop and who wants to experiment. It's not the best trip-hop album ever, but it's as good an introduction as any.

4/5.

Recommended Download -
Glory Box. Every time I listen to this album, I loop this song at the end - once I had it on loop for 2 hours. Features an excellent bassline - sampled from Issac Hayes - that managed to make its way onto every advert going here in the UK. Also features some great lyrics and great vocals from Gibbons, and the album's best guitar work. The solo works in some Hendrix-isms, and shares Dave Gilmour's appreciation of space. Sleazy and soulful, you can almost see it standing on a street corner in some 50's B-movie, smoking through a cigarette holder. One of the greatest songs ever, in my book.

Having said that, Mysterons is the best representation of the album, being more of a hip-hop nature.



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4.3
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Comments:Add a Comment 
OrbDragon
August 5th 2004



152 Comments


The whole album is great...but my favorite song on the album is "Roads"...it freaks me out. Too bad the self titled album was such a letdown.

What's up with Portishead now...are they on hiatus or something? They haven't been around lately.

blueyxd
August 5th 2004



77 Comments


I like most of the songs from Dummy, but Mysterons is the pinnacle for me. What stands out most to me is the way Beth has a different voice for each song, it's sad and pleading in Roads, oh so sexy in Numb, mysterious in Pedestal.. it's great variation.

I don't know how you can compare her voice to anyone from this album, unlike the Portishead album.... :/ she sounded like she recorded all of it after eating a lemon... it was a let down for me. But this is about Dummy, and Dummy was good.

I recommend -
Mysterons
It's A Fire
Roads
Numb
Pedestal

Randy Nomad
August 6th 2004



3 Comments


Anybody noticed how many excellent track there are out called NUMB? Portishead, U2, The Hives... They have all done excellent stuff, all of which makes you feel numb...

ZEROthirtythree
August 6th 2004



234 Comments


I am putting this on my albums to buy list.

Iai
Emeritus
August 6th 2004



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

[QUOTE=OrbDragon]What's up with Portishead now...are they on hiatus or something? They haven't been around lately.[/QUOTE]

Yeah, they are. Although Beth Gibbons released an album with Rustin Man from Talk Talk last year. It was utterly terrible. Got rave reviews too. :rolleyes: Mysteries was a great song though.

Tomahawk
August 8th 2004



124 Comments


This album is pretty awesome. I only got it today, but I'm already loving it. I love her voice, and just the whole feel of the album. I definitely need to check out more trip-hop.

Great review too.

Oh and you don't have "Its a Fire" on your tracklist.

Iai
Emeritus
August 9th 2004



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

[QUOTE=Tomahawk]This album is pretty awesome. I only got it today, but I'm already loving it. I love her voice, and just the whole feel of the album. I definitely need to check out more trip-hop.

Great review too.

Oh and you don't have "Its a Fire" on your tracklist.[/QUOTE]

Huh? Where did you get your album from? Mine doesn't have It's A Fire.

moderaterock222
August 9th 2004



121 Comments


Ive had this for a while..i listen to it every now and again and love it. I just dont go through phases of it because im hardly ever in the mood to listen to it.
Good review.

Clone
August 22nd 2004



4 Comments


Just dont assume the self titled album "Portishead" to be of the same calibur as "Dummy", because you will be dissapointed.

Good review.

BlackDeathMetalJazz or really ANYTHING else please-
April 11th 2005



200 Comments


This is a very fine album and good reveiw too.

Dried Muffin Remnants
April 13th 2005



297 Comments


I'm an idiot. This CD gets a 4. Every song is very good, but they all sound exactly the same.This Message Edited On 10.15.05

Iai
Emeritus
July 12th 2005



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

(Incidentally, I find red wine always makes trip-hop better. )

IAI YOU'RE A BIG FAT GAY.

k.This Message Edited On 07.12.05

br3ad_man
Emeritus
July 14th 2005



2125 Comments


:lol: :lol:

haha wtf

masada
October 15th 2005



2733 Comments


This is a good album, even though it doesn't get as much recognition as some other trip-hop albums do (namely Mezzanine).

Dried Muffin Remnants
October 15th 2005



297 Comments


I take back my previous comment; it is a good album because every song is very good but:
1. Mezzanine has quite better.
2. Every song on here sounds the same.

4/5

Dried Muffin Remnants
October 15th 2005



297 Comments


I take back my previous comment; it is a good album because every song is very good but:
1. Mezzanine has quite better.
2. Every song on here sounds the same.

4/5

gaslight
January 20th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album to chill out to, the first trip-hop record/band I heard.

asymm
February 3rd 2006



18 Comments


Such a wonderfully moody record. The dragging of emotions sometimes even feels like theatrics here.

Nice review Iai. It's always nice to hear about the album in context to its musical scene.

zyxon
February 4th 2006



15 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I strongly recommend this album. I've had it for quite some time now and I have been listening to it quite alot. I don't think I'll tire of it for a long time.

Zmev
October 4th 2006



983 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I am digging this today. Very good record. "Biscuit" is my favorite song.



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