GO!Beat / London Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Put on any Portishead CD and prepare to turn up the thermostat up a couple of degrees. The first track off of their classic Dummy or their very good follow-up Portishead have enough chill in them to make the hairs in the back of your neck stand up.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Unlike so many electronic artists out there, Portishead seem more intent on cramming as few sounds as they can onto an album. The tempo for Portishead is almost always a crawl. And Beth Gibbens's voice sounds like a mixture of an ice pick and some burning incense.

"Cowboys" opens the album with a true noir sound. Gibbens' voice sounds like a couple of switches on the mixing table were all out of whack, but it creates a decent, jarring effect for the listener. It may be a bit too "Sprockets" for most people, but it's definitely adventerous.

"All Mine," is a little more conventional. With an elaborate orchestral setup, a jarring mix of strings and horns drive the chorus. Conductor Nick Ingman deserves major props for adding, but not overpowering Portishead's intoxicating gloom.

Other tracks, like the brooding "Humming" and "Only You" show why Dr. Dre is one of the band's biggest fans. Though the two seem to be polar opposites on their approach to an album, one thing rings true for both of them: making each beat sound like it needed to be there.

Unfortunately, Portishead suffers a slight case of sophomore slump. Because their first CD was so groundbreaking, Portishead at times retreads what Dummy already accomplished. Two years after it was released, I still have the same problem: Why listen to Portishead when you can listen to Dummy?

Ok, there is a thing to be said for variety. If I get bored, I do prefer to listen to Portishead. But listeners can only hope that Portishead will take as big of a risk as they did making Dummy. Taken as a whole, Portishead is a wonderful listen. Taken as an artist's work, however, they could have stirred things up just a tad.

Rating: B

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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 GO!Beat / London Records, and is used for informational purposes only.