Massive Attack
Mezzanine


4.5
superb

Review

by Ben Thornburgh CONTRIBUTOR (116 Reviews)
December 5th, 2013 | 33 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 38)

Sometimes an album establishes a sonic identity so perfectly that nobody even tries to sound like it. Massive Attack’s debut album established a foundation that hundreds of acts have been pulling from ever since. Massive Attack’s third album, Mezzanine, has such a thought out tactile feel that it’s sonic blueprint has had a larger influence on film than music. Mezzanine is equal parts beauty and madness. Siren songs pull you further down an alley until you can’t hear them anymore and shadowy figures are emerging from the shadows. It is a combination of the two elements that makes Massive Attack’s 3rd (and, lets face it, last) consecutive stunner whole.

Pacing is everything on Mezzanine, Massive Attack are in no hurry and they wring out every last idea present. “Angel” opens the album with over a full minute of thick bass pulse that sets the tone for the entire album without saying a single word. “Dissolved Girl” deploys a heavily narcotized Sara Jay and just a relentless build until it boils over in a hail of gunfire before boxing itself up again. The ethereal beauty of “Teardrop” is twisted into “Black Milk”, which sounds like the flaming fragments of “Teardrop” slipping beneath the oily waves.

Robert Del Naja (Or “3D”) has always been underrated as a rapper, often chided on lyrics but superb at something much more interesting, sensuality. Del Naja’s enticing slither of a voice sounds like Satan delivering original sin into Eve’s ear. “Toy like people make me boy like” he vocalizes like calligraphy ink sliding down a clean sheet of paper. The lyrics don’t make sense but that’s because they can’t make sense, you’re not supposed to have stable footing here. Rapping in a collection of non-sequiturs on “Inertia Creeps”, “Mezzanine”, and “Risingson” feel like stumbling through a packed dance floor, high out of your mind and unable to shake the feeling you’re being followed as bits of conversations worm through the haze.

Tracks from Mezzanine have been sound tracking films ever since it came out, with it’s fully realized atmosphere directors have been looking to Mezzanine to provide their films with that deep, dark cool that just drips from this record. Simply put, Mezzanine is one of the most cinematic albums ever created. “Risingson” deploys an incredible synth coda that rips through the last half of the track like a virus sweeping through a nightclub’s ventilation system. “Teardrop” – which is impossible to play in any company without someone reminding me that it’s the theme song to House – gracefully rises above the smog on light harpsichord and Elizabeth Fraser’s wondrous voice.

Mezzanine only falters in its decision to contain two versions of the hotel lobby interlude “Exchange” and 8-minute finale “Group Four”. For some reason, the fellas decided to make the initial instrumental longer than the version that closes the album that features Andy Horace. At 4 minutes it deadens the albums momentum and would have benefited greatly from having its running time chopped in half. “Group Four” has a promising first half with Del Naja and Elizabeth Fraser trading off vagaries, but it promises a payoff that never comes with the second half doodling around on a few power chords until the song limps to a close.

Mezzanine’s usefulness depends on one element. Can you see the sun? If so, it’s basically useless. These songs are meant for menacing subway rides, glaring at strangers for no reason, and checking over your shoulder on your own block all because of darkness. Each tune feels like slowly slipping on a pair of dark leather gloves. Equal parts beguiling and repulsive, Mezzanine lies in wait to soundtrack your next waking nocturnal nightmare.



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user ratings (1895)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
PinkRibbonScars (5)
Less an album than it is a drug, in the best possible way....

Adam Downer STAFF (3)
Mezzanine's got itself some fine moments, but a lack of variation and some uninspired vocal performa...

ocelot-05 (5)
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OrbDragon (4.5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2013


1626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Full series: http://holidaykirk.com/
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New review every Tuesday and Thursday


hogan900
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2013


1616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Teardrop on the fire

tommygun
December 5th 2013


24931 Comments


sxc album to bone to

pos

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

Chortles
December 5th 2013


17956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

classix

Cygnatti
December 5th 2013


21352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

absolutely captivating

Digging: Jon Hopkins - Immunity

ShitsofRain
December 5th 2013


5893 Comments


absolutely

Digging: Anthony Shakir - Frictionalism 1994-2009

Gwyn.
December 5th 2013


15086 Comments


captivating

Chortles
December 5th 2013


17956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

3D putz me in a dazeee~

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2013


4424 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Excellent review. POS'd. I really agree with your comment on 3D's vocals. I love his voice, and while I think he was often out-shined as a rapper by Daddy G and Tricky (when they did rap), he definitely put out some good stuff. "Eurochild" being a prime example that.

I only disagree with your opinion on "Group 4", I think it's perfect. I love the almost dreamy/dreary/mellow "nightclub party" feel of it, and the way it kind of descends into a nightmarish ending. To me it feels like the hypnotic feel was building up to the darkness. but that's just my thought. anyway, great work.

wabbit
December 5th 2013


7000 Comments


mezz/

Underflow
December 5th 2013


2563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Group 4 is incredible.

Chortles
December 5th 2013


17956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed, perfect song

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2013


1626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Always wanted to like it but it hasn't hit me yet.

oltnabrick
December 5th 2013


30797 Comments


Didn't you review this before?

Digging: Monte / Magntophonique - Split

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2013


1626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah. This is that review stripped for parts.

oltnabrick
December 5th 2013


30797 Comments


ahh cool, I'll still give you a pos though. This album is amazing!!!i!!!!

sapient
December 5th 2013


1993 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I should listen to this again tonight, Inertia Creeps, Black Milk, and Dissolved Girl are some of my all time favorite tracks
(although everything here does rule)

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Drsmith4
December 6th 2013


1715 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It is a good thing this review happened. Good objective/subjective balance and fucking killer conclusion.

I don't pos.

Pos.

Wadlez
December 6th 2013


4087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yea, I should listen to this more.

demigod!
December 6th 2013


44381 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

killer review, killer album

Digging: Portishead - Dummy



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