Not the happiest of music. What were you expecting? It's Portishead. The long awaited third album, appropriately titled Third, is already lining up to be the best album of the year. Along some other great albums which have come out (NIN Ghosts, Radiohead's In Rainbows, etc.) it has already established itself as "classic". Portishead is the sort of group who can pull that off. This was a triumphant resurrection, with a delivery that would have had The Stone Roses crying in their pants.
At once mysterious, melancholic and entirely smoky and moody, Portishead has always been a futuristic band with a firm grip on a retro sound. 21st century noir, always looking back (torchsong, primitive electronics, turntable-ism, Krautrock, et al.) but pointing forward with a sound and style that is often outside of any genre.
A lot of reviews have mentioned that Third is of "our times" which is really a shame since I always consider Portishead's music a thing of the future (see previous blog entry) and I don't think that in five or ten years the album will sound dated or represent anything since it already exists in its own era. The music exists in a limbo that is neither here nor there.
It is true that some of the songs reflect contemporary themes ("Silence", "Machine Gun", "Threads") but isn't making any statement. The music is as great if not better than their two previous albums, an updated sound for the group. A brave and often uncommercial sound that's just making the kids go wild. The smart kids, at least. The adventurous and the faithful.
Their set at Coachella 2008 was one of the most anticipated performances of the year and they will soon be touring in England.
Chances of seeing them where I am currently located: zero. At least there is video footage to enjoy.
For me, "Silence" is the greatest song they've ever written and pays homage to every great Krautrock band: Kraftwerk, Faust and especially Can (its beat is reminiscent of Can's live version of "Spoon"). So far, along with Radiohead's In Rainbows, it's the one album that's been getting the most play.