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3.9 out of 5 stars
100th Window
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2004
Of all Massive Attack's releases, this is the one that took the longest for me to really appreciate. On first listening, nearly a year ago now, I was of the opinion, like many other fans and critics, that the absence of Daddy G and Mushroom laid open 'holes' in the music. The songwriting, I thought, was without the soulful, melodic beauty of Blue Lines or Mezzanine. It lacked the introspective, claustrophobic soul of Protection. The beats and production certainly were not imbued with the same dark, powerful and challenging sound that placed Mezzanine among the best records of the 1990s.
So after however many more listens I've given the album, what leads me to give it five stars?
I discovered the subtlety of the emotional (if not political) content of the songs. The melodies themselves are (mostly) more fragile, more subtle than those on Mezzanine, and Del Naja does not tie their flow tightly to the beats. He allows the two to become more separate and flow around and between each other. Silence, possibly the most neglected element in modern popular music, is used to fantastic effect to create the still, reflective mood.
The real brilliance of the music comes in the way this fragility is slowly shattered by quietly menacing riffs and skittering percussion. 100th Window's dark interior has been wrapped up in it's quiet beauty, unlike Mezzanine, where more obvious dark menace was juxtaposed with ethereal beauty. Perhaps the album art is symbolic of the music - the fragile, emotional, human glass shattered by a bullet and all captured in slow motion, freeze-frame.
Inevitably with music as eerily 'chill out' as this - music full of spaces that are only momentarily filled - the album has no 'classic tracks' like 'Unfinished Sympathy', 'Karmacoma', 'Angel' or 'Teardrop', perhaps part of the reason for its lack of critical success. Rather it is memorable for the way it plays on your emotions, and for sounding so incredibly organic yet shattered and frozen.
'Future Proof' begins with a rotating synth riff that never seems to settle into a groove, keeping the song on edge throughout. Guitar licks echo around it until the low vocals come in along with a fractured beat, '...absent friends...empty pockets...they think it's soul...' The song builds to probably the most restrained, quiet fury ever put on record. Testament to Del Naja's innovation that at the climax of the track he introduces quivering ambient drones underneath the layers of guitar.
'Special Cases' floats O'Connor's haunting, powerfully wrought vocals over a brooding bass riff. There is a strange string melody that repeats over and over again ominously and is gradually mixed with wordless vocals. It slowly gets inside your head and makes everything very still, until all the layers of the song come away suddenly leaving only reverb and rotting string bass. (Incidentally, this was initially one of my least favourite tracks)
Other highlights are the pounding beats lost in the grooveless soundscape of 'Butterfly Caught', and the minute detail of 'Small Time Shot Away'.
The album is possibly more deeply layered than any of Massive Attack's earlier work. It may be wrapped up in similar clothing to 1998's Mezzanine, but its is a much darker, earthier and emotionally rich core.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
To put it quite bluntly if 18 by Moby was the follow up, or, a continuation of Play, then 100th Window does the same and more for Mezzanine.
From the opening Electronic chords of Future Proof, to the magical strings fading away on Antistar, this record never seems to let up. To be honest though what else would expect from Massive Attack, they never seem to dissapoint.
As ever, with all the records, they have chosen their female vocalist carefully, from Shara Nelson to Tracey Thorn they have gone for the haunting vocals of Sinead O'Connor on this record. I'll be the first to admit I'm not her biggest fan but her voice suits the mood perfectly. She delivers the lyrics with such emotion and utter grace that you find yourself wrapped up in this record from an early point.
Highlights, although exceptionally hard to pick would be Future Proof, Smalltime Shot Away, The fantistic lyrics on Prayer for England and the sizzling strings on Antistar.
At first listen I wasn't sure what to expect and I must admit I did feel quite dissapointed. It was very sameish as Mezzanine, I expected them to move on as they had done on previous albums, as the album continued it did grow on me, and in a big way.
Fans of Mezzanine will love it, it's just as dark, if not darker, just as chilling, perfect evening listening. It's nowhere near as friendly as Blue Lines or Protection, people will turn their noses up at it which is a shame. It really is a fantastic record with variation that is hard to pick up, but is there all the same.
As long as you enjoyed Mezzanine you'll enjoy this, and Sinead fans will love it, she brings a whole new dimension to the record.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2004
This album is what I'd consider to be Massive Attack's finest, you do need to listen to it a fair bit though to get used to it....then it's just something else! Oh my word!
Don't expect to listen to this one with your friends though, it's very introspective and dark...you'll soon be able to listen to this album over and over, it's more of a feeling than anything.
It's up there with orbital - insides, prodigy - music for the jilted generation, etc.. one of the best!
Go buy it now!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2003
The strength of this album lies in the fact that Massive attack have not given into pop pressure.It is more serious than that and more suited to the modern ear.
Sweeter sounding than Mezzanine.Gone also are the days of Blue lines - that may be classic stuff -I love it- but it is now history.My only regret is that Liz Frazers beautiful voice is missing.
I predict this album will attract as many new fans as others loose pace and drop away.
More strong tracks than weak ones - and that is unusual these days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2003
Surprisingly, to me at least 100th Window had a pretty quiet release-not too much hype (sadly!) after the well rinsed but still class mezzanine. My point being that I think that 100th Window is their best album yet-proven by the emotive collaboration with Sinead O'Connor... I don't think they could have found a better vocal... she enevitably provides a haunting, eerie quality to the 3 tracks she appears on... cohesive with the rest of the album which is very intense at times! (think-listening to 'angel' from mezzanine, turned up far too loud!) But having said that... do not read it as 'scary, manic, dwelling music' although it can be, it pretty much suits any mood.
If you are a Massive Attack fan, there is no exscuse not to own this one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2004
Granted, not all tracks are perfect - I personally find some of the Sinead O Conner (sp?) tracks to be the weakest with somewhat sentimental lyrics to the cynic. However, this album contains some of the most incredibly heavy atmosphere I've yet heard created by anyone - both instrumentally and lyrically. After 18 months or so a track as spellbinding as 'Butterfly Caught' has me on this page ranting as if it was recently purchased. This release is less compromising (it goes deeper and darker) than any by MA before and although some won't relate, those whom do will discover timeless worth. Superb.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2003
This is one of those albums that requires several listens before a realistic opinion can be formed. At first I didn't think it was as good as Mezzanine, which I loved. But, after several listens it's started to grow on me.
This album is dark, darker possibly than Mezzanine. It's an album for those moody moments and for the times when your mind wanders. It manages to remind me of past events in my life, those things being good and bad.
The stand out tracks for me are "Future Proof", "What Your Soul Sings", "Special Cases", and "A Prayer For England".
If you liked Mezzanine, buy this. If you haven't heard any Massive Attack, buy this. This album just needs a few listens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2011
Sometimes I find the albums that take a while to grow on you are the ones that stay with you the longest and this album took a fair while to charm its way into my affections. I remember waiting for its release and then feeling really deflated when I got it home and listened to it. However, after a few plays some of the tracks started to embed themselves in my head and I got to the point where I was constantly playing it in the car, in the kitchen and on an MP3 player when I was out on the mountain bike. It is the archetypal grower.

I went to see them on the 100th Window tour and they put on an excellent show. Many of the tracks take on a greater resonance when played live. Opinions appear to be divided on some of the tracks. I personally love the Sinead O'Connor offerings but there is a downside - pretty much like Leftfield- MA have real problems playing a full live set as they can never get all their guest singers on the road. So thank goodness for Horace Andy who once again pitches in with his own haunting vocals. I own Blue Lines, Mezzanine, Protection, No Protection and this album but given that I am a predominantly rock-based music lover, many of my friends are surprised that I give shelf space to Massive Attack. Most would be even more surprised to find that I would rate this among the top 50 albums that I own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2003
A new Massive Attack lp is always something to look forward too, especially in the current musical climate. Bereft of up and coming musical talent a quality release is even more of an event than normal.
And here it is, everything that you would expect it to be. Professionally produced, almost clinical in delivery yet maintaining the brooding mystery for which Massive Attack lps are famous.
This lp sees the addition of Sinead O'Connor (or a very serious sound alike) on a few tracks.. Sinead these days spends moe time on other peoples records than she does her own ! Obviously her presence only serves to strengthen the package and 'Prayer For England' is one of the best tracks on the lp.
'Futureproof', 'Name Taken' and 'Everywhen'' are just class - true Massive Attack. The music is dark, reggae tinged techno with hints of Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream thrown in for good measure.
If you liked the previous albums, you'll like this one. Two gripes though, there don't appear to be any 'stand out' tracks ('Man Next Door'/'Karmacoma'/'UnfinishedSympathy')and the overall feel which, and it pains me to say it, is almost complacent. It is carried off this time but I'm not sure they can do many more albums from the same starting point.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When I first heard this I was a little shocked as it was sooo grungy and edgy that I almost got annoyed, and then magic happened. I was stoned and chilling on my bed with my lights off and I wacked this on. It made sense. I love trippy twisted sounds anyway so this just worked for me and works every time now. Some may find it depressing but to me thats only if you like pop music. I don't however, I like to be moved, vunerable, and question things in life and so this kind of sound works beautifully. If you like this yoh may like KID A by Radiohead and Amnesiac. Well, I know I favour all of these as my tastes are non-conventional and less obvious and with these kinds of sounds it helps you to move into another realm one in which we rarely experience in the fast paced world of stress and money. Take an hour to absorb this and you may think differently afterwards.
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