Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bend Me, Shape Me #8: Dummy

In the fall of 1994, I returned to UNC for a visit and caught up with my friend MS who was just as into electronic and house music as I was (and probably more). Thanks in part to the wide variety of new music she was bombarded with at her gig late-night deejaying for our college station WXYC, she'd turned me on to a lot of good stuff already.

"Feeling so unholy"

Driving around in her car one night, she said something to the effect of "Have you heard of Portishead?", then when I said I hadn't, "You are gonna love it."

I got goosebumps when I heard the first seconds of "Mysterons", the first track from Portishead's first album Dummy. European-art-film-soundtrack-y guitar layered over chunky old school scratching?

And then those jeep beats?

And then a fucking theramin?

And then, of course, that voice, Beth Gibbons, saying those things.

Inside your pretending
Crimes have been swept aside
Somewhere where they can forget

Did you really want?

So that's how you get a smoky voice

And then the torch song of our generation (am I allowed to say stuff like that?) "Sour Times":

‘Cause nobody loves me,
It's true,
Not like you do.

And it kept going, one amazing track after another that were all indeed directly up my alley. It was one of those records that I immediately had intensely personal feelings about, and yet in a remarkably short time it spread out from the beathead fringe and BOOM everyone I knew loved it too.

One of the last times I can remember feeling optimistic about the state of pop music was following Dummy as it sold millions of copies worldwide, crossing over and over.

Then, like a candle lit at both ends burning brighter, I suddenly couldn't listen to Dummy anymore. In that year or so after I first discovered it, I heard it so many times in so many places that it'd become completely burnt. I never stopped loving it, but I stopped listening to it, and somehow even new material from Portishead hardly resonated with me at all.

1994-95 also saw me fall in love with and get sick of PULP FICTION

The band took 10 years between their uninspired live album Roseland NYC Live and their third album of new material called, um, Third. I was both excited and wary when I read that Third was about to be released, but my gut said that the long hiatus would be good for both the band and my listening ears.

Well, most everything I've read about Third has been positive, and it scores an 85 at (which translates to "Universal Acclaim"), but after three listenings it just doesn't do anything for me. The weird thing is that I felt like somehow it should, that there was something wrong with me, not the record itself. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that no matter what the new record sounded like, it would fall short for me. Intense Dummy overload may have permanently crossed the wires and made enjoyment of Portishead's future output impossible, but with the passing of the years Dummy thankfully sounds immaculate and wonderfully listenable again.

**If you're new to the site, the goal of the Bend Me, Shape Me series can be found here.**

No comments: