Additional personnel: Strings Unlimited (strings); Dave McDonald (nose flute); Andy Hague (trumpet); Neil Solman (Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond organ); Gary Baldwin (Hammond organ); Clive Deamer (drums); Richard Newell (programming).
Recorded at State Of The Art and Coach House Studios, Bristol, England.
Named for a town near Bristol, England, Portishead is a British dance band that grabs ideas from all over the mod pop world (spaghetti Western guitars, turntable scratching, melancholy soul vocals, atmospheric organs, house beats) and stirs them into spacey, dub-like productions that sound like a dance club in the middle of a "Twin Peaks" dream. You could call it surreal hip-hop pop. But if the beats on the band's debut album achieve a kind of trance-like static, the songs themselves reach for something more rousing. With understated lyrics and overstated melodies, singer Beth Gibbons and bandleader Geoff Barrow write insinuatingly melancholy dance ballads that ebb and flow like waves through rustling waters. Organs quaver in quiet tremolos, guitars emit squiggles and turntables hiccup, while Gibbons, in a high, cutting voice that evokes a less breathy Sinead O'Connor, sings songs of longing and heartbreak with equally palpable emotion.
What the critics say...
Rolling Stone (5/13/99, pp.79-80) - Included in Rolling Stone's "Essential Recordings of the 90's."
Rolling Stone (3/9/95, p.66) - 3.5 Stars - Very Good - "...Assertive rhythms and quirky production save Portishead from languishing in any coy retro groove. Instead they manage yet another--very smart--rebirth of cool..."
Spin (p.134) - "[They] combined odd sample noises and instruments with haunted vocals....A perfect pop album."
Spin (9/99, p.140) - Ranked #42 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s."
Spin (3/03, p.118) - "...Turntable wicky-wicky, film-noir theremin, hammer dulcimers, and the tearful vocals of Beth Gibbons...
Entertainment Weekly (11/18/94, p.108) - "...mixes cocktail keyboards, spaghetti-western guitars, eerie tape loops, and dub-wise rhythms into what could be called `acid cabaret'....as musically compelling as it is emotionally chilling..." - Rating: A-
Q (12/99, p.82) - Included in Q Magazine's "90 Best Albums Of The 1990s."
Q (6/00, p.66) - Ranked #61 in Q's "100 Greatest British Albums"
Q (10/94, p.125) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...perhaps this year's most stunning debut album..."
Alternative Press (7/95, p.116) - "...On their debut, instrumental wunderkid Geoff Barrow and torch vocalist Beth Gibbons draw on grooves from Isaac Hayes to the present to create dark, dense tracks that inspire gentle rocking instead of frantic pumping..."
Village Voice (2/28/95) - Ranked #14 in the Village Voice's 1994 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll.
Mojo (Publisher) (p.62) - Ranked #35 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "[S]loping beats, inventive samples and freaky melodies create an unsettling emotional topography."
Mojo (Publisher) (1/95, p.50) - Included in Mojo's "25 Best Albums of 1994" - "...A stunning, stylish first album."
New York Times (Publisher) (1/5/95, p.C15) - Included on Neil Strauss' list of the Top 10 Albums Of '94 - "...The eeriest and most original dance-music album of the year."
NME (Magazine) (8/12/00, p.29) - Ranked #29 in The NME "Top 30 Heartbreak Albums" - "...An easily accessible, but still richly emotional new sound for the beginning of the '90s."
NME (Magazine) (12/24/94, p.22) - Ranked #6 in NME's list of the `Top 50 Albums Of 1994.'
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