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  Massive Attack - 100th Window
Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5

by Brian Blessinger

100th Window, by Massive Attack…what can you say about a group that has redefined the public's concept of itself with every outing, creating at least two, if not three of the 90's greatest albums? Anyone who has heard them will agree; any beat-head would be foolish to argue against their primacy. Blue Lines and Protection are classics in the canon of electronic/intelligent dance music; they are in fact, the bedrock foundations of the popular mid-90's 'trip-hop' phenomenon, and are pretty hard to top. 1998's Mezzanine was also a monumental release, bringing the dubbed out Bristolians into more American homes, malls, movies and commercials than ever before. So, what I'm trying to say is, there's a lot of skepticism inherent in reviewing the "new" Massive Attack CD. However, despite line-up changes and almost 5 years since the release of Mezzanine, this is a bona fide Massive Attack album, a fully realized, ethereal, stoned classic.

The philosophy that drives the Bristol collective has always been one of progress while never neglecting all that has come before. Reggae, dub, drum'n'bass, instrumental rock and hip hop find in this group a common home where an amazing, intuitive synthesis occurs that inevitably resets the bar for popular music for the next five years. In 100th Window, groundbreaking production techniques cozy up to rock guitars and copious live instrumentation to create a heady mix like a vision from a visceral, sexy future.

Interestingly enough, Robert Del Naja (3-D) produced the album primarily alone: absent are original members DJ Mushroom, who left the group in 1999, and Daddy-G, who apparently 'sat this one out.' Lush atmospherics, burbling bass and the relentless, slow breakbeat characteristic of the Massive Attack sound remain intact. 3-D contributes vocals on several tracks-"raps" you might call them, if it weren't for their paranoid, nasal delivery (not a bad thing)-as does regular contributor Horace Andy; Blur's Damon Albarn (2-D) makes an appearance doing backing vocals on "Small Time Shot Away," slated to be the album's first single.

However, the most impressive vocal collaboration, the pairing that truly puts Massive Attack's cultural cache and influence in perspective, are two tracks featuring the heaven-sent voice of that most complex and reluctant of British pop stars, Sinead O'Connor. Upon first listen, someone commented, "That can't be Sinead, her voice is much stronger than that." Good point…but it is. Delicate, frail, plaintive, yes, but it is Sinead. What other group in popular music can invite absolutely any vocalist they want to sing on an upcoming album? ("Elizabeth Fraser's (Cocteau Twins) busy this week? So's Tracy Thorn (Everything But The Girl)? Call Sinead, that's the voice we're looking for.") Then, to have a vision singular enough to direct that banshee, that tempest of a woman, to sing sweetly and softly, exhorting the listener to "Say What Your Soul Sings" on track two, then appealing to Jah for the safety of England's children on "A Prayer for England" is an exhibition of the group's legacy.

Massive Attack plan to release another disc's worth of new material within a year of 100th Window, with Daddy-G back on board. Plans for collaborations include Tom Waits and Mos Def, among others. If you aren't familiar with their work, 100th Window is a magnificent introduction to the moody, postmodern blues of Massive Attack. "Discovering" Massive Attack is an incredible jewel of an experience: if this album is your first chance, I envy you.

100th Window
Massive Attack
Track Listing:

  1. Future Proof
  2. What Your Soul Sings
  3. Everywhen
  4. Special Cases
  5. Butterfly Caught
  6. Prayer For England
  7. Smalltime Shot Away
  8. Name Taken
  9. Antistar

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