Portishead
Third


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
May 18th, 2008 | 116 replies | 35,991 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A charm.

Oh, to be a member of a mainstream hard rock band. If you found yourself in the ranks of an AC/DC, an Aerosmith, a Nickelback, then life would be easy - churn out the same two songs over and over again and have done with it. Your fans would expect nothing less, so the money would keep rolling in, and best of all, you'd never actually have to think about your music. After all, nobody else does. For the rest of us toiling away making just about any other kind of music, life's slightly harder.

The interesting thing about Third, of course, is that Portishead are one of the few bands who actually COULD get away with releasing the same album again. Were Third to be Dummy II - Dummy Harder, would anybody mind? After all, that album came out in 1994, and it's been 11 years since any new material of any kind emerged from the minds of Messrs. Barrow, Utley, and Gibbon. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, and we're not just talking about the absence of Portishead - the cynics among us might argue that it's also been 10 years since anybody released a good trip-hop album.

But then, if Portishead were the kind of band who considered doing that, then we wouldn't have had to endure a fourteen (!) year gap between Dummy and Third. We probably wouldn't even have had to endure the three years between Dummy and Portishead. So let's make this very clear - Third is a very different beast from anything Portishead have offered up in the past.

For a start, Geoff Barrow has obviously been digging through his record crates, and he's also decided that he's interested in those Silver Apples fellows. He likes the cut of their jib, so to speak, and any conversation about the influences on this album could probably stop there. "We Carry On" is practically a sequel to "Oscillations". That means the fundamental basis for the Portishead sound has changed - by taking most of their cues from an electronic band who released their debut album in 1967, they've bypassed the importance of hip-hop entirely. How can we still call this trip-hop? How does the ukelele of "Deep Water", the creeping, awkward "Silence", the violent percussion of "Machine Gun", and the ruminative acoustic guitar of "Small" be made to fit into that particular genre, or even any one genre at all?

The other major change to the Portishead sound on Third is the increased presence of guitars. "Small" is a doomy folk number without a single drum in sight for nearly 6 minutes, "Hunter" is built upon a plaintive strum with the chorus announced by intrusive distortion, and "The Rip" is perhaps a stab at incorporating Nick Drake's influence. Shades of Beth Gibbons' collaborations with Talk Talk's Rustin Man haunt around half of this album's tracks.

Despite the changes, though, the thing that drew many to the band in the first place remains intact. Beth Gibbons still has a voice that could melt steel. On "Nylon Smile", when she half-croons, half-murmurs 'I don't know what I've done to deserve you/And I don't know what I'd do without you', it's an astonishingly beautiful moment to rank alongside 'Nobody loves me, it's true/Not like you do' ("Sour Times"). It's Gibbons' haunting, bruised voice that never lets you forget that you're listening to a Portishead album, despite the fact that the band no longer sound like they're writing French film noir soundtracks (well, okay, they kinda do).

At heart, Third is an album full of contradictions. It's obviously indebted to the '60s, but it still sounds futuristic; it could easily be the work of an entirely different band, yet it still sounds like Portishead; it's home to both their heaviest and most fragile songs yet. The biggest and best contradiction, though, is that by experimenting Portishead are actually playing it safe. Everybody knows how easy it would have been to offer up the album everybody was expecting, so were this to be a failure, the band would at least be commended for trying something different. It's a good job, then, that the songs are so brilliant. "Silence", "Hunter", "Nylon Smile", "The Rip", "We Carry On", "Machine Gun", and "Magic Doors" are all more than worthy of sitting next to "Glory Box" and "Sour Times" in a back catalogue that suddenly looks very, very strong.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
April 8th 2008



15914 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review... I didn't even know this was coming out, but their other two are awesome... I guess I have something else to spend my money on now.

it's been 11 years since any new material of any kind emerged from the minds of Messrs. Barrow, Utley, and Gibbon.
I might be wrong but, I think you wanted a comma after "Messrs", but maybe not...

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

Iai
Emeritus
April 8th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Messrs. is the plural of Mr., so no, the full stop is correct. I have, however, accidentally called Beth Gibbons a dude.

Willie
Moderator
April 8th 2008



15914 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oh, ok... I don't think I've ever seen that word before... I thought it was another person's name... go American School systems!
I also didn't think about it until reading this, but there hasn't been any good Trip Hop out in the last few years (at least not pure Trip Hop, the latest Hooverphonic was good).

Iai
Emeritus
April 8th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Violet Indiana and Daughter Darling are worth checking out.

Willie
Moderator
April 8th 2008



15914 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've never heard of either of them, but will definitely look into them today.

Kaleid
April 8th 2008



711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sterling work, Iai. I was secretely thinking this album would end up disappointing, glad it seems so good

Metalikane
April 8th 2008



851 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Aw, no mention of Plastic? It's one of my faves. Good review.

Broken_Drum
April 8th 2008



2 Comments


Great review. Still contemplating whether or not to buy the Limited Edition Box Set.

The Jungler
April 8th 2008



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome, I'm definitely going to get this if it really is this good.

Mikesn
Emeritus
April 8th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, bud. Really excited for this.

Altmer
April 8th 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I need to get some Portishead.

jontheatheist
April 8th 2008



79 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm afraid to listen to this.

After the Stooges last year I don't know who to trust. At least Mission of Burma was a great reunion band, seems like portishead are having good results.



Iai
Emeritus
April 8th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This has got good reviews basically everywhere, though, and the Stooges got raped by the critics.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2008



15732 Comments


I'm liking this, the first track is dynamite.

cometuesday
April 8th 2008



959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweet review Iai, I'm decidedly stoked.
I've been waiting for this album for so long it seems.

joshuatree
Emeritus
April 8th 2008



3743 Comments


I'm amazed that this isn't a complete mess. I'm gonna have to check this out.

Regulator
April 8th 2008



603 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I am extremely excited for this release. I'm definitely hoping for tour dates in N.A. other than Coachella!

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2008



6094 Comments


tied
http://www.metacritic.com/music/artists/stooges/weirdness?q=stooges



Regulator
April 8th 2008



603 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nothing to do with this thread, and at the high risk of looking like a total noob, why doesn't my display photo show when i post?

Iai
Emeritus
April 9th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Your display photo isn't the same as your avatar. It's your avatar that will appear when you post once you've uploaded one. I think you need to go to the forums to do that, though.



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