Blue Lines

Massive Attack

Virgin Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/11/1999

In 1991, Massive Attack dared people to dis their debut album, Blue Lines. Either you were with Massive Attack or you were not. Indeed, you couldn't compare Blue Lines to anything else out there, so what could have been a listener's standard when they first heard the bubbling, trippy introduction of "Safe From Harm."

Of course, I wasn't there to buy the CD when Blue Lines was out. I was still stradling that line between Extreme and Mother Love Bone. I purchased Blue Lines last year, after I heard Portishead and former Massive Attack member, Tricky. And to a lesser extent, I've heard waaaay too many "trip-hop" bands that hopelessly try to attain the qualities of the above three bands. So at first listen, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Blue Lines really didn't sound that innovative.

Let the beats sink in, said the wise, yet red-eyed DJ. And they did. After three or four listens, you can see what sets Blue Lines apart from its imitators. The mix of club beats, rock riffs and jamacian grooves were handled with meticulous care by Mushroom, 3D and Daddy G. Sharna Nelson adds a much needed soulful voice to the mold while Tricky (then known as Tricky Kid) surfaces and hides throughout the album. It's weird hearing Tricky on this album-the guy actually has a sense of humor and is more playful than the menacing artist that inhabited his last two works.

Bob Marley gets a severe reworking on the song, "One Love." His philosophy of "one love" is upheld, but along with the reggae elements of Marley, a mean blues guitar riff is followed by a propulsive, simple club beat. It's almost like hearing three songs converge onto one effortlessly.

The centerpiece of the album is "Unfinished Symphony." If you haven't heard of Massive Attack, you probably have heard this song in a movie, TV show or commercial. It's one of the most sampled songs of this decade. The song is just as good as the other nine on the album, but this is the one that broke them open on the charts in Britain. Starting with a simple beat that sounds like it was constructed on a triangle, Shara Nelson's gospel-like voice floats over the entire mix like a cloud.

The album closes with "Hymn Of The Big Wheel" on a high note. The lazy atmosphere the last track creates for the listener is almost dream like. And, in under fifty minutes, it leaves a listener willing to give the album another spin to try and pick up what he or she missed.

Though Blue Lines may have been their most influential record, it isn't their best. That title goes to last year's Mezzanine album. A strong statement, proving that the band may still have enough tricks up their sleeve to create some equally original music for the millennium.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Sean McCarthy 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.