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Album Review

Portishead's debut album, Dummy, popularized trip-hop, making its slow, narcotic rhythms, hypnotic samples, and film noir production commonplace among sophisticated, self-consciously "mature" pop fans. The group recoiled from such widespread acclaim and influence, taking three years to deliver its eponymous second album. On the surface, Portishead isn't all that dissimilar from Dummy, but its haunting, foreboding sonic textures make it clear that the group isn't interested in the crossover success of such fellow travelers as Sneaker Pimps. Upon repeated plays, the subtle differences between the two albums become clear. Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley recorded original music that they later sampled for the backing tracks on the album, giving the record a hazy, dreamlike quality that shares many of the same signatures of Dummy, but is darker and more adventurous. Beth Gibbons has taken the opportunity to play up her tortured diva role to the hilt, emoting wildly over the tracks. Her voice is electronically phased on most of the tracks, adding layers to the claustrophobic menace of the music. The sonics on Portishead would make it an impressive follow-up, but what seals its success is the remarkable songwriting. Throughout the album, the group crafts impeccable modern-day torch songs, from the frightening, repetitive "Cowboys" to the horn-punctuated "All Mine," which justify the detailed, engrossing production. The end result is an album that reveals more with each listen and becomes more captivating and haunting each time it's played.

Customer Reviews


This album is one of the best albums of the 1990s. Besides classic singles like the grandiose but disturbing action-movie-esque "All Mine" and the sweet detective slyness that is "Only You", the album's strongest tracks include the raw, gnarly, wrecthed and purely evil "Cowboys" featuring vocalist Beth Gibbons' witch-like tonalities, the beat-infested spaceship opus "Humming" layered with anxious staccatos and haunting string arrangements, as well as the troublesome and acid-washed trip-hop journey of "Seven Months" featuring dark skeletal guitars and an eerie baby's sigh that palpitates in the backdrop. It's also notable to mention the beautiful yet melancholly piano and guitar bridge halfway through "Elysium". While this record is overall rather dark, it does pass through some lighter moments and really strives to access a broad range of sentiments. Portishead's 1994 release "Dummy" is largely regarded as being their classic album, however I would argue that this self-titled record achieves greater standards in terms of the craftmanship of the songs, the production (just listen to the crispness of the drums) and most importantly, originality. It is highly recommended to anyone who knows the difference between good and bad music. You know who you are.


This album will cut you open like a hot sword through butter! But bleeding never sounded so good!

Masterpiece Beginning To End

This album I knew was a must buy the first time I heard it. The haunting angelic vocals work and mix with the music to create a trip-hop masterpiece that you'll get lost in. BUY THIS WHOLE ALBUM just getting one or a few songs doesn't do this album justice it's a whole experience this album.


Formed: 1991 in Bristol, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Portishead may not have invented trip-hop, but they were among the first to popularize it, particularly in America. Taking their cue from the slow, elastic beats that dominated Massive Attack's Blue Lines and adding elements of cool jazz, acid house, and soundtrack music, Portishead created an atmospheric, alluringly dark sound. The group wasn't as avant-garde as Tricky, nor as tied to dance traditions as Massive Attack; instead, it wrote evocative pseudo-cabaret pop songs that subverted their conventional...
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