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Album Review

Portishead's album debut is a brilliant, surprisingly natural synthesis of claustrophobic spy soundtracks, dark breakbeats inspired by frontman Geoff Barrow's love of hip-hop, and a vocalist (Beth Gibbons) in the classic confessional singer/songwriter mold. Beginning with the otherworldly theremin and martial beats of "Mysterons," Dummy hits an early high with "Sour Times," a post-modern torch song driven by a Lalo Schifrin sample. The chilling atmospheres conjured by Adrian Utley's excellent guitar work and Barrow's turntables and keyboards prove the perfect foil for Gibbons, who balances sultriness and melancholia in equal measure. Occasionally reminiscent of a torchier version of Sade, Gibbons provides a clear focus for these songs, with Barrow and company behind her laying down one of the best full-length productions ever heard in the dance world. Where previous acts like Massive Attack had attracted dance heads in the main, Portishead crossed over to an American, alternative audience, connecting with the legion of angst-ridden indie fans as well. Better than any album before it, Dummy merged the pinpoint-precise productions of the dance world with pop hallmarks like great songwriting and excellent vocal performances.

Customer Reviews


Everyone knows the key alternative albums of the 90s..Pearl Jam's 'Ten', Nirvana's 'Nevermind', Radiohead's 'The Bends' Smashing Pumpkins etc...but Portishead's 'Dummy' is frequently (and unfairly) overlooked. 'Dummy' is, simply put, absolutely gorgeous. The lead vocalist's haunting tones will literally raise the hairs on your arms. The lyrics will make you cry, or at least want to. The guitar parts are simple, but beautiful. The song 'Glory Box' is played all the time on Xfm London, but in my opinion the stand-out track is without a doubt the poignant 'Roads'...if you only sample one song, make it that one.


This album has been out for years and it never ages. The mix of discomforting electronica and soft bluesy guitars make for a surprisingly inventive album with some genuinely moving moments. The album shimmers from track to track and makes you wonder how they actually put this stuff together. It's not a 'noise' album with bleeps, hisses and creaky doors, each track is well structured and memorable. For reference, only thing to come close to this album is Massive Attack's 'Mezzanine' but Dummy is far more searching. It will be a cornerstone of your collection.


Classy, spooky, timeless, will keep you focussed for hours.


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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