Monday, April 23, 2012

Portishead-Dummy (JHO Hall Of Fame)

I'll be straightforward with my history to Poritshead's debut album "Dummy". I wasn't a fan from the beginning or when Trip-Hop was the fad in the mid-90's. I'm a late believer. As a matter of fact, how about a timeline with a brief closing statement at the end with reasons why it's one my favorite albums of all time. There will be no review of "Dummy", no synopsis of each song, just what I remember from the last 17+ years since it was released.

August 22, 1994-Portishead releases their debut album "Dummy".It peaks at number 2 in the UK and 70 in the US.

The Fall of 1994-The single "Sour Times" gets a lot of attention on MTV and gets quite a bit of play on alternative rock stations. I personally like the song's "spy like soundtrack" and adore lead singer Beth Gibbon's sultry voice. The memorable video also put Gibbons and collaborator Geoff Barrow on the top of my "Watch for this artist" list for the following year.

1995-Poritshead release their next single "Glory Box". It turns out that Trip-Hop has become a new movement coming out of Britain and is starting to make ripples in the US. There isn't a huge flow of music on stations already run over with Grunge and other alternative music offerings, so as I remember, Portishead is a kind of novelty in a way here. And while the song "Glory Box" is a knockout with Gibbons playing the role of seductress over a nasty bass line and an Isaac Hayes sample, the video I see a few times is just really corny. In a way, I kind of tune out to Trip Hop through 1995 thinking it is just a novelty act. I still keep an ear out for Portishead, half-halfheartedly.

1998-I see the video for "Only You", from the band's second album on late night TV. At the time it's mesmerizing. Being that it's their third single from the album, I'm a little behind. Later in the year I catch their whole performance with the New York Philharmonic orchestra. It's fantastic. But by 1999, Portishead fades away for me. Gibbons goes solo and the band doesn't release another album for ten years.

2001-I start seeing "Dummy" on a lot of end of the decade lists. Thanks to the internet, I access a lot more of these lists with ease...not just the ones you used to get from magazines. My intrigue raises again.

2003-Working on my back catalog, I finally pick up "Dummy" almost 9 years after its release. I listen to it a few times but it seems odd at first. I feel like I've taken a trip back to a dead genre of Trip-Hop. But I'm reminded of the alluring spy like samples Barrow uses on "Mysterons" and Gibbons' seductive voice on "It Could Be Sweet". I'm not fanatical, but I decide to file it in the listen to it sometimes category.

2008-Portishead releases their much anticipated "Third" album. With a big hype and press behind it, I pick it up. It sounds like a soundtrack to a smartly done horror flick. Not one with blood flying around in every scene, but one that makes you frightened to find out what's behind the next door. I decide to go back and listen to "Dummy" some more and find even more to love about the debut. The warped samples of "Numb", the brass samples pulsating through the slick "Pedestal", the sample of Johnnie Ray's "I'll never fall in love again" sounding like a sad Muppet on "Biscuit" and the mad fury taking over the breaks during "Strangers". These are all elements I ceased to realize when listening to "Dummy" before. Plus listening to Gibbons' voice again makes me think she sounds even more mysterious and even a bit more innocent on the debut. I find myself thinking she's my favorite female singer from the past twenty years (I think I still do). Every song sounds good fantastic to me. It's at this point I consider "Dummy" a must have...it only took me 14 years to realize it.

2010-"Wandering Star" becomes one of my favorite songs of the 90's. It just hit me during a run one day. It helped me finish a workout of  a ten mile run that I desperately needed inspiration for. The breaks, Gibbons' ghostly voice, and that pulsating bass running through it...all those reasons helped me love the song even more. I consider it the caper of "Dummy". If you're not sold, listen to "Wandering Star" on a day you're feeling a bit down. You will regain confidence.

2012-"Dummy" enters the JHO Hall of Fame...end of story.





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