During the early 2000’s, I was on a mission to discover and know bands outside of my comfort zones. I had heard about this seminal band obviously before this point, but seeing their name on the 2006 Coachella lineup finally compelled me to get some albums. Initially I purchased 1998’s “Mezzanine,” but the one that stuck out the most to me is that records younger sibling, “100th Window.” Another addition to the “Albums of my Life” series, Massive Attack’s “100th Window”
Until this point, the band’s material had had undertones of free jazz, and including various samples. Upon hearing the opening track, “Future Proof” though, you can tell this is a different type of album. One major difference is the lack of two of the core trio of the group. One member refused(Grant Marshall), and another quit the group before recording began(Andrew Vowles). This left Robert Del Naja as the sole original member, and his force and ideas are all over “100th Window.”
One of the more lush, slow winding tracks on the album is the Sinead O’Connor sung track “What Your Soul Sings.” The mixtures and layers that drive the song are some of the most beat oriented, yet beautifully worked textures on the whole album.
While tracks like “What your Soul Sings” are quite lovely, the band can just as easily delve into darker terrains. The first segment of this darkness comes with “Special Cases.” It’s a thumper of a track, and provides the perfect soundtrack for a night wandering a vast urban landscape, curious of what you might come upon. It’s a wonderful song, in and of itself, and for better, it sets the album on a darker path for a certain length of time.
One of the best parts of this album has to be the caliber of guests that fill up the recording. O’Connor is obviously a huge plus, and keeps the tradition of female singers in tact, but also not so obvious choices like Damon Albarn performing as his Gorillaz alter ego 2D really the album into something singular and distant from the band's previous efforts.
Another thing that sticks in my head regarding the record is how well it would play to various other forms of entertainment. For instance a song like “Butterfly Caught,” fills me with the weariness and dread that you might sense during an episode of “Hannibal,” while other tracks perfectly compliment “Blade Runner,” and other futuristic science fiction films.
By this point in the record, we’re steering ourselves once again into a sound that more similar to the earlier albums, but it’s still has tinges of where the band is currently at. This isn’t a bad thing like you might be assuming.Recognition of your past is important when deciding what path to take in the future, and on tracks like “Smalltime Shot Away” Robert bridges the gap almost effortlessly. The song is a quieter selection from the album, but what is does it does well. It’s also one of the longer, more meandering tracks featured on “100th Window.” This is an important distinction, mostly because it speaks to the overall approach of the album when it comes to the lengths of the songs. Previous albums like “Mezzanine” and “Protection” only have four songs at the most that pass the six minute mark. On “Window” though, six of the nine tracks are over six minutes.
One could argue that the song length could have to do with Robert being unsure of how to tie up the ends without the help of the two other members, but partially I think it has to do with him wanting to purposely get lost in the music, and see where and down what holes it takes him.
As the album comes to a conclusion though, we’re treated to a devilishly sly track, once again featuring Albarn on vocals. “Antistar: jingles in the night, and is sure of it’s purpose through and through. It’s once again a track that lends itself well to the overall darkness of a big city, but it also ends the album on a high, albeit downbeat note.
Over the course of two decades and more, Massive Attack have been a leader of the future of electronic bands, and while this record is often pushed aside in favor of justifiable gems, it’s really a solid record, and one that still can pack everything you love about the band while also bringing you something new. Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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