For fans of may bands that made fantastic records in the 90's, it's taking some time for these bands to get back to it and release some new material. Last year, Dinosaur Jr. came out with the fantastic return to form after 11 years of nothing with Beyond while 2006 saw Evan Dando and the Descendants team up to release Lemonheads, another fantastic return to form. This year, Portishead joins this group of 90's groups to release a long long awaited next release. The new album simply entitled Third isn't as much of a return to form as the other bands I have mentioned, yet a welcome return to writing very moody fantastic music.
Portishead's first album Dummy and it's follw-up Portishead had a twinge of trip hop and jazz influences giving their music much more of a funky overtone, however moody it may have been regardless of this. Songs like "Mysterons" and "Sour Times" are perfect examples of the jazz/trip-hop influence with haunting vocals setting the standard for the mood and tone of the first album. Now, in 2008, Third continues in the standard of setting this mood, again with the vocals being the centerpiece, but the music has changed a slight bit. The group has traded in the sampling and such for more conventional instruments. That being said, the songs still have an unconventional sound to them as the instruments sound shipped from somewhere otherworldly.
Much like Radiohead's In Rainbows, Third is quite clean in production and allows the instruments and vocals do the work for setting the mood rather than the production as a whole. Songs like "Silence" and "Machine Gun" have a beautiful grit to them. "Silence" builds with a catchy riff and as the vocals come in the swirl of sound compounds until it cuts off into the spacey "Hunter." "Machine Gun", the first single off the record is a very difficultly beautiful composition with mostly electronic drums in an oppressive beat that pulsates and mutates as the track slugs on. The melancholy tone of the vocal performance brings the song out of the muck and into a thing of strange beauty. Definitely check the new album out as it's a thing of strange beauty.
Sadly the best quality version of the official video was disabled form embedding, so here is a link and a live version from the ATP Festival.