Portishead’s Third : Cold but engrossing

Portishead took over a decade to come up with their third proper album, dully titled Third. In 1994 when they burst onto the scene, Portishead sounded unique and surprisingly their songs received a fair amount of airplay. In fact their songs were even used (and blatantly plagiarized) in many TV commercials. It seems Portishead want to distance themselves from the sound that made them famous and their subsequent music has been progressively more abrasive, cumulating in this latest album.

Third distinctly sounds like a Portishead album, but gone are the more accessible melodies. In its place are bursts of cold and harsh synthesized chords with layers of distorted guitars. Beth Gibbon’s vocals are more jagged and nuanced than previous albums as well. Make no mistake, the music is oppressive and depressing.

Listening again to the album last night, sonically Third reminded me of the spartan and detached production of Martin Hannett’s Joy Division albums. Adrian Utley’s guitar playing is more aggressive and angular and in some songs, it reminded me as well of Joy Division’s guitar driven songs. I also thought some of the keyboards owe a debt to Kraftwerk.

I highly recommended this album to serious music fans of somber (and depressing) music. Third is a album of very high quality and demands more than a  few spins to appreciate.

Outstanding tracks : We Carry On, Machine Gun, Small


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