Portishead – Dummy

PortisheadTo me, it’s amazing this album is 12 years old. I can remember singles from Dummy being the highlight on the Now… albums that I was forced to buy due to having bugger all cash as a kid. Back in the day, you’d still get some good stuff on a Now album. These days they wouldn’t touch a group like Portishead with a barge pole. Back then, with Britpop begining to form, Dummy really sounded different. Groups like Massive Attack had pioneered the down-tempo, sample based kinda of music that came to charactarise “trip-hop”, a genre much derided by critics by a type of music I personally love. Portishead however took a different spin on the genre; less in love with it’s hip-hop roots, they plundered film soundtracks and jazz to create a noir-ish atmosphere for their debut album.

Opener “Mysterons” is brooding and sinister, and the theremin gives it an undeniabley creepy atmosphere. “Sour Times” uses a Lalo Schifrin sample to good effect creating another dark track. “Strangers” heavy drum breaks into some distant vocals from Beth Gibbons. I remember reading that author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) liked Portishead because Beth sang in a way that didn’t demand that you liked her. “It Could Be Sweet” is a track that sounds more like trip-hop; minimalist beats with a light synth line. As such this is one of the weaker tracks, but it does provide a bit of variance through the album.

But it’s when Portishead embrace samples, they really shine. It maybe just the one trick throughout the album, but it’s a really good trick. The best track is the haunting “Glory Box” with it’s signature Issac Hayes sample(Tricky used the same sample on “Hell Is Round The Corner” on his Maxinquaye album). It’s a classic tune, with it’s swinging beat and fizzing guitar solo. It’s worth buying the album for this track only, but it’s full of hidden gems you’ve probably not heard. Don’t think of it as some lame nostalgia, this record is as unique and beautiful as when it came out in 1994.

Portishead – Glory Box”


  1. I don’t think I’d buy the album for Glory Box alone, it’s not as good as that, but it’s still good.

  2. If you’ve not heard the other tracks then you’re missing out. I had the fortune to listen to nearly all the album on a TV show a few years ago, so I knew I was in for a treat.

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