Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rock of Ages: Portishead - "Machine Gun" (2008)

So here we are at the final post for Rock of Ages (minus a ssummation of the entire list.) We started waaaaaay back in 1957 with Buddy Holly & The Crickets and 52 years later we have finally hit a stark contrast in music. It's weird to think that Rock and Roll as we know it is only a little over 50 years of age. Alas, music has changed drastically as we look back on the list. Musical technology has jumped leaps and bounds ahead from the birth of the electric guitar way back in the 30's. But I digress. The fact of the matter is in 2008, a group who lay dormant for 11 years came back with an album so powerful and groundbreaking, it was a pleasant surprise. Portishead's Third is a sound scape of psych rock and melancholia perfectly meshed together. Their are countless perfect tracks, but none as perfect and brutal as the single "Machine Gun." This song is about as mechanical as it gets. With a furiously intense synth drum backing and no melody whatsoever besides in Beth Gibbons completely shattered voice, "Machine Gun" is aptly named. This song is devastating and has the same shrill death rattle of the weapon of mass destruction it is based on. It's harrowing and fitfully beautiful all in one.

"Machine Gun" is not an easy listen. It's tragic and dark and very harsh on the ears until near the end when a lonely synth comes in and plays this simple yet surprisingly hopeful melody amidst the clatter and ratatat of the synth drums. It swirls in from nowhere and is utterly captivating. The band created such a great atmosphere using a bare minimum of sounds and effects leaving most of the song up to Beth Gibbons to give it the real emotions. It's truly a testament of her talent as a singer to be able to convey such heart wrenching beauty amidst such a din of despair. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, Portishead's Third has many twists and turns and when the twisted metal of "Machine Gun" comes on, you know you've been truly captivated by the brilliance that you've just witnessed. It may be hard to listen to at first, but it's true beauty shows in time.

Well folks, that's it! The end of the list. There are many MANY other great songs I'm sure I missed. Stay tuned for a master list of the 100 Rock of Ages Tracks as well as the start of our next feature: 2000 - 2009: A Decade in Movies and Music.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Great song. Also, it reminds me of the Terminator.