Portishead has a new record out.
The reader will be forgiven for one of the following responses:
1. Portishead? What the hell is Portishead?
2. Portishead? They're still making records?
3. Portishead -- I think my Mom listens to them.
4. Portishead, yeah, I remember liking them -- when Bill Clinton was president
Twelve years is a long time to go without putting out a record. But one of the things I've always liked about Portishead is that they don't seem to give a rat's ass about being successful. And it's one thing for bands to stay "indie" by downscaling their operations and staying closer to their (limited) audience, but it's something else again to simply refuse to play the game, to pack up ones samplers and go home. In a way it's kind of the ultimate cred move -- smooth move, Portishead, playing the "integrity card."
Anyway, Portishead has a new record out, and it's called Third
, and it's wonderful. It's quickly becoming my favorite record so far this year (step aside, Raconteurs, R.E.M., Rolling Stones, et alia).
A band that takes twelve years between albums would be forgiven for becoming irrelevant, dusty, twee or marginal in the lapse (I'm looking at you, XTC) but Portishead simply picks up where it left off and moves forward. The record everything one would want from a Portishead record, and then more. It is startling, eerie, moody, catchy. It is simultaneously more "live" than their first two records and more artificial, more contrived. (Am I the only one who prefers the live versions on their Roseland NYC
album to the studio versions?) The arrangements are more adventurous (a mandolin even pops up on one tune, with Gene Autry-style cowboy harmonies), the tempos more diverse, and there are some stylistic experiments so surprising that I've had to stop several times to make sure that what I had heard was intentional and not some download glitch. The tension between the druggy electronic backgrounds and Beth Gibbons's keening vocals is as alive and disturbing as ever. If popular music has moved on from where Portishead was in 1996, well, I was never too interested in popular music anyway.
Note: while this post is filed under "iTunes Catch of the Day," I actually downloaded Third
from Amazon, where it was two dollars cheaper. This was my first time downloading from Amazon, and I am happy to report that the Amazon download program is fast, efficient and problem-free -- unlike eMusic
, which is cheaper but is, frankly, is a pain in the ass.