Tag Archives: portishead

Acclaimed Albums – Third by Portishead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 249/250Title: Third
Artist: Portishead
Year: 2008
Position: #226

In the four years (count them, four) since I first listened to Dummy, I have kept my Portishead listening relegated to that album. Why I didn’t take some time with their second self-titled album is beyond me, given how much I liked their debut. Now I am finishing off the 2000s in this album challenge, I have finally gotten around to Third.

When I wrote about Dummy and saw that Third would be a move away from trip-hop whilst still keeping something innately Portishead, I didn’t completely gel with the idea. I mean the swirling nature of Dummy was what I loved most. Then I got about halfway through my first listen of Third and I got it. Between ‘The Rip’ and ‘We Carry On’ I started to understand what they were trying to do. Then came the re-listens and Third just kept opening up more and more.

There is a bit of a thing about the music that Portishead produces being the perfect food for a depressive mind. Considering everything I went through jobwise in 2020 and continuing into 2021, maybe that is why Third hit as hard as it did. 

This is not an everyday listen by any means. When I was deeper into my post-Covid brainfog, the sounds on this album would have been way too much for me – especially the beginning to ‘Machine Gun’. Now my brain is healing somewhat, although I am still losing words mid-sentence, I think I get what they were trying to do – and it’s something I should have listened to back when I was 18.

In the expanded list, Portishead’s second and self-titled album will finally appear on my radar and I’ll have a reason to give it a proper listen… other than because I have really liked the other two entries in their discography. Might wait a while until we live in a post-covid world though. I have enough moody music for the time being.

Acclaimed Albums – Dummy by Portishead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 119/250Title: Dummy
Artist: Portishead
Year: 1994
Position: #65

Portishead is one of those acts that I avoided for a long time because someone once told me that they were weird. I am someone who lists Bjork and Kate Bush among their favourite musicians, wrote all of their NaNoWriMo to a soundtrack of The Knife and Grimes, and actually had Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You Honeybear‘ as the first dance at their wedding.

Still. The idea that Portishead was weird persisted and I never really listened to them until relatively recently. Even now the only album of theirs that I have listened to is Dummy. I will need to listen to Third at some point, but Dummy feels like the essential one.

I must have listened to Dummy three or four times in the last 10 years before doing it for this blog. Now that I have more context as to where this fits into musical history (and I have listened to more Massive Attack) I think that I actually get this album a whole lot more.

This is unmistakably trip-hop, just with more of a chill-out and bluesy feel to it and less hip-hop. Because of Dummy’s more dreamy soundscapes it almost feels like you are listening to a film soundtrack. Something neo-noir like Mulholland Drive or maybe a TV show with some mysterious edge to it.

A lot of this mysterious sound comes down to the vocals of Beth Gibbons. She’s like an Elizabeth Fraser you can understand (again, I listened to Treasure by the Cocteau Twins and yet stayed away from Dummy… what the actual hell) and her voice feeds into the swirling jazz samples and record scratches.

Knowing that Third was Portishead moving away from the trip-hop that they helped popularize actually saddens me as it has taken me a long time actually listen and get into them (I seriously love this album but I am not at the point yet where I can nail down a track by name apart from ‘Mysterons’). Still, artists need to develop (hey, look at Bjork’s progression from the house of her debut to the sweeping broken-hearted strings of Vulnicura).

All I can say is that it’s going to be interesting to hear them be more on the industrial side of music.