Massive Attack
Mezzanine


5.0
classic

Review

by ocelot-05 USER (20 Reviews)
January 24th, 2006 | 5712 replies | 163,964 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist


49 of 50 thought this review was well written

Many of us go through certain musical phases. A couple years ago, while electronica was still in my roots, nu metal was my world. At that point I, and so many others, felt that an album like Slipknot or L.D.50 were the greatest album of all time. It sounds ridiculous, but it's strange to think that I was so sure of it back then. It therefore makes it difficult for me to decide whether or not my high opinion of Mezzanine is the same as my old love for Follow The Leader and such albums. I honestly believe that I will regard Mezzanine as one the greatest albums of all time for the rest of my life, without a doubt. The rest of my life seems like a far cry from the seemingly short five years that I've been listening to Mezzanine, so there's really no way of knowing if it will retain its staying power.

I cannot fully explain the phenomenon that is Mezzanine, nor its nearly unequaled critical acclaim. What I can explore is how much of an advance for Massive Attack is was, and how it affects me.

After a brief hiatus, Massive Attack re-emerged in 1998 minus one member. Tricky had left for a solo career, unsurprisingly making music similar to early Massive Attack. How much of an impact his departure had on the band I'm not sure, but some factors must have caused them to change so dramatically. Massive Attack rose above their contemporaries such as Portishead, with a new style. They had almost said goodbye to the indie, soul, and hip-hop influences that drove their previous albums. While Protection showed a little electronic flair, Mezzanine was when instumentals fully surfaced as a key element of the band. From dark, brooding keyboards in the club-scene commentary Risingson, to smooth, lush instrumentals in the 50's slow-jam Exchange, Massive Attack helped reinvent an entire genre, although an obscure one.

What is also superior to the previous albums is the vocals. There is a smaller input from from the rather annoying reggae singer Horance Andy, whose vibrato style almost ruined Blue Lines' One Love. He does appear on the opener, Angel, but he sings in a more soft, subtle way. The other song of his, Man Next Door, happens to be the only song on Mezzanine I find mediocre. It only seems mediocre compared to the greats like Teardrop and Group Four.

This brings me to absolute best thing about Mezzanine: Elizabeth Fraser. While Shari Nelson and Tracy Thorn are both perfectly decent singers (understatement of the year), they always seemed to draw attention away from the music for me, except in the case of the 1991 classic Unfinished Sympathy. On the other hand, Elizabeth Fraser's voice is just plain perfect. It's more than perfect; it's divine. If I believed in God, I would imagine it to have a voice like hers. Her singing brings emotion to Massive Attack's songs that may have seemed inconceivable before. Fraser's ending to Teardrop makes it one of the most moving moments of the album. She just adds to much beauty to Mezzanine, and I do not think it would it would have made it so far without her.

Now, Robert Del Naja (also known as 3D) can't exactly shatter glass with his voice, but he makes an outstanding contribution as a vocalist nonetheless. With the newly-introduced dark atmospheres behind him, his amelodic murmurs are often chilling. On the title track, Del Naja creates an unnerving depth with the repeated lyrics "All these have flaws." On the earlier albums, his talk-rapping was as annoying as Andy's singing, but with the right background he makes quite a presence, especially on Massive's most recent release 100th Window.

With the addition of instumentals and more refined vocals, Mezzanine manages to create a broad spectrum of emotions. I equate the contrast of tones to the contrast between the two main singers. Fraser is meant to represent the gentle, motherly yin, whereas Del Naja plays the male role of the strong, unyielding yang. After an album of ups and downs, the two sides to the dichotomy meet face to face in the final act, Group Four. It begins with a creepy, crawling sound, and then an ever-so-dark bassline kicks off the song. The use of instrumentals is excellent here, casting a sad yet hopeful tone. Del Naja and Fraser take turns singing to each other, in some kind of dance of death. Del Naja's lyrics represent introversion and isolation, "A flask I drink of sober tea, while relay cameras monitor me, and the buzz surrounds it does, buzz surrounds." The buzz of the cameras represents a stark artificiality, while Fraser expresses the complete opposite. Her lyrics, "Daydreaming, admiring, being, quietly, open the world I hear the time of the starry sky turning over at midnight," obviously suggest a more warm, open embracing of nature and beauty. After five minutes of competition, Del Naja says "Flickering I roam," creating the illusion that the song is drawing to a close. The very quiet music is pushed forward by a crescendoing drum beat, joined soon after by a guitar. As it continually strums, you just know that something wonderful is about to happen, until everything finally comes to light with Fraser leading the majestic final movement. The music keeps speeding up gradually, until you feel like you can't take it anymore. It then reaches its inevitable decline into one of the most fulfilling releases I've ever heard. It leaves me with an impression that the two sides have found some kind of solace, maybe even in death.

Not quite to spoil everything, but to certainly put a damper to an otherwise perfect ending, the very last track is an alternative version of Exchange, with Horace Andy singing along. I recommend that you leave this song off, because Group Four is the true ending to the album. As I said, Mezzanine presents a broad range of emotions, most of which were brought about by Massive Attack's developments in production. Mezzanine is both a classic and a 5/5 album; a classic because of its redefinition of trip hop, and a 5/5 for being an almost perfect album in my eyes. Mezzanine is hardly perfect, but I would never say that there is even one bad song. I refuse to even consider the possibility that Mezzanine is a "phase album," like some of my old nu-metal flames. I've never been surer about an album that I'll listen to it and love it for the rest of my life. It sounds naive, but I guess I just have that much faith in Mezzanine.



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Chart.
4.4
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other reviews of this album
Ben Thornburgh CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
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Less an album than it is a drug, in the best possible way....

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...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Thor
January 24th 2006



10186 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My bad. Excellent review.This Message Edited On 01.24.06

ocelot-05
January 24th 2006



807 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Did you not see the first paragraph, or was it unclear?


pulseczar
January 24th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good work, despite the cheesy use of a Rudd13 quote. Great album too, probably my favourite trip hop album due to my friend's whoring of it.

Zebra
Moderator
January 24th 2006



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, I actually thought the Rudd quote was needed. Your review wasn't too long nor to short and it had a nice amount of info, nice work.
I have yet to listen to this album, but now you and many others have convinced me to check this out.

Killtacular
January 24th 2006



1314 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My god, I love this album.
I bought it offa eBay for 7 bucks (that's including S&H).
:cool:
Nice review, too.

Iai
Emeritus
January 24th 2006



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

We are here to inform you - it is not a phase.

Jawaharal
January 25th 2006



1832 Comments


Entroducing is better :mad:

Rudd13
January 25th 2006



952 Comments


By far, the best intro anyone has ever written.

Rudd13
January 25th 2006



952 Comments


[quote=Galapogos]despite the cheesy use of a Rudd13 quote.[/quote]
Jealousy has never suited you very well, friend...
^/also jealous my skin is slightly darker for a hispanic

Sepstrup
May 9th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think this is hard to listen to all the way through, which means I rarely listen to it, even though I like a lot of the songs.

Log S.
June 15th 2006



32 Comments


Psyence Fiction is the best trip hop album.

ocelot-05
June 23rd 2006



807 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Psyence Fiction is the best trip hop album.


Are you out of your mind? What on earth would make you think that? Sure, it's a decent album, but better than Mezzanine and Entroducing? I strongly disagree.

undertakerpt
July 2nd 2006



1271 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ocelot, you are a god, i first read your review on Aphex twin's I care because you do before last christmas, now, apon never listening to him before, i know own basically all of his cd albums and i think he is awesome, just because your review inspired me. Now, i've just read your review on this massive attack album and i can now say the same thing is going to happen with this band. Thanks man, you've changed my life and the way i look at music.

ocelot-05
July 22nd 2006



807 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I haven't been able to log on for quite some time now, but reading that post of yours, undertakerpt, made me feel quite appreciated. I feel that I have fullfilled what I consider to be the primary purpose of this website - to inform and introduce others to your favorite music. Thank you.

pulseczar
August 6th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm disappointed. Still a cool album, though.

SpeakerCity
August 6th 2006



48 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's what I thought when I first listened to the album, I didn't really like it except for Exchange, which for some reason I loved. I took me a few listens all the way through, before I 'got' it.

pulseczar
August 21st 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album grew on me more, now a 4. It's on its way!This Message Edited On 08.21.06

KoraX
August 21st 2006



161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Same, now a same. It's on the same way!

"Freshly Baked"
September 3rd 2006



583 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm most likely bunking this album to a 5 soon.

One question.

Does anyone know what the hell "toy like people make me boy like" means?

Two-Headed Boy
September 9th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album has opened my eyes. It's a definite classic album. Everything is clear now. Up until now my life has been a lie.

Resistance is futile. This album is the future.





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