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Portishead created a unique sound in their debut "Dummy," combining smoky jazz and trip-hop. So an equally good follow-up was a pretty tall order. Enter the self-titled "Portishead," which ups the eerie noir feel while not abandoning the cool electronic edge. In the months before their return, it seems appropriate to revisit their older material.

"Did you feed us tales of deceit,/Conceal the tongues who need to speak?/Subtle lies and a soiled coin,/The truth is sold, the deal is done," Beth Gibbons intones, sounding like a slightly gleeful robot. That sets the tone for "Portishead," giving it a darker tone than its predecessor -- darker songs, darker vocals, darker music.

The jazz overtones are still there, bubbling up in songs like the distant "Over" and "Seven Months," which sounds strangely like fellow trip-hop artist Emiliana Torrini. Only the downtempo "Over" and softly poppy "Western Eyes" break from this cooler sound, sounding warm and unaltered. The rest of the album is a different story.

Somehow it adds to the noir atmosphere to have darker, colder sounds woven in with the jazzy trip-hop. "Humming" includes a strange background beat that sounds exactly as you would imagine a UFO. This dark, experimental edge makes it a bit harder to get into than their debut album, but when you do get into it, it's almost frighteningly intense.

The jazzy percussion is one of the first things you notice about this, paired with horns and thick synth. It's surprisingly heady to listen to. Also cold and distant -- which seems appropriate, since the simple lyrics focus on loneliness, melancholy, sadness and loss ("Why should I forgive you,/After all that I've seen,/Quietly whisper,/When my heart wants to scream?").

Beth Gibbons plays around with her vocals this time around -- while Gibbons's voice is normally very pretty, in a few songs she twists it into creepy monotones. It's a bit jarring at first, compared to her usual melodic singing, but it suits the darker songs here. The filtered, eerie intonations in "Cowboys" are downright spine-chilling.

Portishead, presently working on their long-awaited third album, made a triumphant second album. While not as easily accessible as their debut, it's definitely an entrancing experience.
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on 7 January 2004
Although a little bit more 'experimental' than the "Dummy" album (1994), it still creates an atmosphere are sheer devine feeling. The silky tunes and lushious mixing on the tracks, gives the album a sexy touch. Beth Gibbons voice is absolutely gorgious, some would say its piercing, but its pierces the heart not the ears. I've heard songs from this album being played on fashion websites and catwalks. It definately invigorates moods of utter-most sensuality, perfect for any romantic night in! If you enjoyed "Dummy", I'm sure you won't be disappointed!
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on 1 May 2002
As much as I love 'Dummy', I think this one out-does it by quite a way. It's a much darker and more distorted side of Portishead, but also more beautiful and extravagant. This album is stunningly orchestrated and impeccably well written, and while it's not as good for trendy background dinner-party type music as 'Dummy' had become for some, musically it pushes the boundaries of the 'Trip-hop' sound which they practically invented to awesome effect. Get 'Dummy', be amazed then get this and be doubly amazed.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2014
This for me is Trip hop at its seminal best, an album that is grainy , harsher and supplying scratchy atmospherics – that goes beyond their first album Dummy. At times some of the tracks seem to lead one down a somewhat dark path, but it’s a path worth treading. Others will say that this album is more of an acquired taste, and compared to their debut album Dummy, far too experimental. None the less for me this is a deliciously wicked album that satisfies my tastes, for those wishing to expand their musical tastes, and enjoy alternative rock then this album is really worth sampling.
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on 30 January 2004
Until I heard this, I thought Dummy was the best triphop album I've ever heard. With this album, Portishead have taken all the dark energy and searing emotion from the previous work and amplified it to the point of agony. It's impossible to imagine how Portishead-Portishead could ever be improved upon; perhaps the band peaked too early. This is a classic in its genre, taking the listener on a intimate ghost-train ride through the darker side of the human psyche. My favourite track is Elysium. It plods along, dark, cynical and unstoppable, then falls into a gentle trough which lulls and relaxes the listener. When the main dirge and evisceral vocals kick in again, it makes me want to hide in the cupboard. I love this album. Only downside - the singer's Shirley Bassey impressions are a little shrill. Tweeters everywhere beware...
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on 11 March 2006
If this had been Portishead's first album, everyone would be raving that it was the greatest thing that ever happened in early nineties music. It wasn't and people aren't. And while there aren't quite the high points of Dummy - Like Sour Times, Roads and Glory Box, I think this second offering is more consistent than the debut. All Mine, Over, Only You are all fine songs. It's claustrophobic and classy, it's blue and brooding. I wish Beth Gibbon would sing more, she has quite an amazing voice. Portishead rock. Please can they release something again soon?
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on 27 November 2002
Dummy being the best, of course.
Portishead had little to gain with this album. Their debut had been so successful that it shaped an entire musical style, and the whole landscape of a city. Their efforts to follow this were fraught, to the extent that almost an entire album was thrown away before they got this opne in the can.
The singles All Mine and Only You are the most commercially palatable tracks on here, and 2 of the best. Beth is on top form vocally, a fact also borne out by the haunting Undenied. Only You brings the hip hop influence to the fore, sampling The Pharcyde to good effect and counter-balancing some of Beth's bleakest lyrics. All Mine's shimmering chorus is instantly memorable and balances well against the rest of the track.
Humming has to be seen as another standout, a six minute epic with builds from an eery intro to a passionate epochal climax. Anotehr favourite of mine is Western Eyes, which cahnges direction inexplicably at the end to provide a Portishead take on lounge, specifically the work of Shaun Atkins, described on the inlay as 'The Legend'.
However, in places the emphasis on atmospherics detracts a little form the tunes, and like any follow-up to an innovative debut, there is much less new ground to explore. I expect if you buy this first, you may end up preferring it, but I'd say Dummy stands above it.
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on 11 February 2016
Portishead as an album is great there music is brilliant but with Beth Gibbons vocals it takes there music to a different level , once you've heard this you will want to hear every album they've ever made .
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on 31 December 2010
I won't bother going into details about each individual track. All you really need to know is that this is an ESSENTIAL purchase; whether you liked 'Dummy', whether you are into Electronic / downtempo music, or simply if you just appreciate well-made, beautiful music.

I missed Portishead first time around, being too immersed in dancefloor-oriented stuff to truly get into this. Now that I'm older and wiser, I can fully appreciate Portishead for what they are - the best electronic band of the 90s if not EVER. This album feels a bit more 'grown-up' than Dummy. It's certainly darker and the production is of a higher standard. That said, I prefer the first album - it simply has better tunes from start to finish. A couple of the tracks on 'Portishead' feature a side of Beth which I really dislike (too much banshee-like wailing and warped impressions of Shirley Bassie for my liking) - a theme which unfortunately was built upon even further in 'Third'.

A lot of the uplifting melancholy of Dummy has been replaced by a twisted angst, which although works well for the most part, shining though on 'All Mine' and 'Elysium', I feel means that the heights of 'Numb' and 'Strangers' are not quite matched. That said, this album is still head and shoulders above everything else in the genre and beyond - and having listened to 'Third' recently, I can also say, it doesn't get any better than this from Portishead themselves............
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on 29 January 2002
Hey! I'm sitting here reading the other views and it seems that people don't like this album as much as Dummy. I'm amazed. This is a far more mature offering than their first album, wonderfully mixing Billie Holiday with messed up mood music. Maybe it's not for everybody, but this is one of my very favourite albums. Think Brother's Quay animation and you are not too far from the aural equivalent.
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