100th Window

Massive Attack

Virgin Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


With every album, Massive Attack explores a new and unexplored territory, still maintaining the inherent spookiness, which is so true to their style. 100th Window, like every new Massive Attack album, ventures into another strange direction of another facet of their strange imagination. Bleak, it is, but 100th Window does allow a little bit of sunshine in its abode, unlike its predecessor, the eerily disturbing and distraught Mezzanine.

Unlike the previous albums, 100th Window has the drum-machine used quite generously in places, and the trip-hop sluggishness of this album gets an 'electronica' tinge, giving its reptilian feel a blush. As a matter of fact, since the band revisits its more accessible sounds with 100th Window, it has a much more amiable feel to it, and is more musical than Mezzanine, which was more inclined to creating a spooky aura.

Much less trippy in nature, 100th Window wanders into the new blend of Brit alt art-pop, that bands like Radiohead, Clinic and Broadcast have been into, lately. As a matter of fact, the distorted vocals of singer Robert Del Naja on "Small Time Shot Away" sounds a lot like Thom Yorke in "Everything's In The Right Place," from Radiohead's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Kid A: a perfect exemplar of this neoteric blend of Brit gloom pop.

With Sinead O' Connor being the female vocal accompaniment for this latest Massive Attack project, her songs on 100th Window are more driven with feminine power and fire, rather than feminine tenderness and demureness, which Elizabeth Fraser had imparted in her songs, on the predecessor Mezzanine. No longer as angry as she was before, Sinead is more pensive in her collaboration with Massive Attack. But, her vocals still make a strong presence on this album, in contrast to that of the rather tranquilized vocals Robert Del Naja and Horace Andy, the other vocalists on 100th Window. With Grant Marshall and Andrew Vowels missing from the present Massive Attack line-up, 100th Window is devoid of Massive Attack's trademark spooky rap, and as a matter of fact, there is no rap at all on this album!

Amidst the downcast in the album's feel, there is positivity, which comes mainly from Sinead's vocals, in "What Your Soul Sings," in which she plaintively sings, "Don't be afraid / open your mouth and say / say what your soul sings to you / and when you do / you'll find the one you need is you / you'll find you, love you." And, in a more advising tone, sings "the deadliest of sin is pride-makes you think that you're always right-but there are always two sides…there are many good men-thank your lucky stars that he is one of them" in the gothic "Special Cases."

Along with drugged gloom, sensuality had always been a quality of Massive Attack's music, and who better to provide it, than Horace Andy's seemingly seamy vocals. "Everywhen," with its addictive piano-hook, one of Massive Attack's most tender numbers, has Horace singing his best and sleaziest collaboration with Massive, of course only after the eternally raunchy "One Love" (from Blue Lines). Also, the beautifully programmed orchestra-laden "Butterfly Caught," with its melancholy and vulnerability, shows the insecurity of this band, with an undertone of unfulfilled urges.

100th Window is the very first Massive Attack album with the complete band line-up missing. Notwithstanding, this LP still has retained the distinctive Massive Attack eeriness and sensuousness. Though incomplete, the band is still as talented as it had always been, and 100th Window, like every other Massive Attack album, shows why this band has been one of the best of the present generation.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-



© 2004 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.