12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Well Worth the Wait,
This review is from: Third (Audio CD)
Having waited eleven years to return with such a highly anticipated third album, one could be forgiven for thinking that Portishead's 'Third' would be anything other than a shattering disappointment. For many of the band's dedicated following, questions as to how relevant Portishead could be in 2008 were sure to be raised. Furthermore, doubt was also bound to be cast over the possibility that they mightn't be able to recapture the essence of what made them such a unique band in the first place. With expectations of unprecedented scope, Portishead have somehow managed to create an album of such staggering brilliance as to render any preconceived doubts, ridiculous. 'Third' displays a significant development in Portishead's sound, whilst maintaining the underlying elements at the heart of their two previous albums. A concoction of electronic experimentation, tribal drum beats and Beth Gibbons' hauntingly fragile vocals, make for Portishead's darkest, most tension-fuelled album to date. Opener `Silence' sets the tone with a repetitive drum section and sparse bass allowing Gibbons to take full focus with typically introspective lyrics and delicate delivery. `We Carry On', arguably one of the band's finest achievements yet, adopts a similar approach, utilising tribal sounding drums to create almost unbearable tension, before reaching an epic, guitar-led chorus. `Machine Gun' shows Portishead at their most experimental. Centred on a menacing electronic drum beat, the track provides one of 'Third's' most distinctive moments, producing an atmosphere quite unlike anything they have previously released. In fact, `Machine Gun' may be seen as a bold statement of intent, given that it was the band's comeback single, albeit with an extremely limited release, the song clearly serves as a reminder that Portishead are not a band content with playing things safe.
'Third' also has its quieter moments; `The Rip' highlights the band's more melodic sensibilities via subtle acoustic guitar and vocals, while the eerie `Deep Water', perfectly placed between `We Carry On' and `Machine Gun', offers a moment's respite from the sonic abrasion of the tracks it lies between.
The one minor criticism that could be levelled at Third is the occasionally muddy sound of its production. Whilst the lo-fi production techniques at work here are well suited to most of the tracks, there are moments, such as on `Plastic', `Small' and `Threads', in which the overall clarity of the instrumentation can be slightly lost. However, such imperfections are easy to overlook in light of this most spectacular of comebacks. Let's just hope we don't have to wait quite so long for album number four.