Massive Attack: 100th Window

Massive Attack: 100th Window (Astralwerks)

Trip-hop has always had a problem eliciting emotion from its listeners. Instead, it tends to get away by being cool and removed. Massive Attack has always gravitated away from simply relaxing its audience—from the warmth of Protection to the steely, barely controlled anger of Mezzanine—and instead chooses to engage them. Until now. See, cofounder Mushroom (Andrew Vowles) and Daddy G. (Grant Marshall) aren’t on 100th Window, the former having quit the group completely. We’re left with 3D (Robert Del Naja), and while he is an essential part of the Massive sound, 100th Window is audibly missing its other members.

Despite the seamless production evident in all of Massive’s work, 100th Window sounds as though the songs are being hidden under a blanket of sound. Even with Sinead O’Connor, Massive regular Horace Andy, and Del Naja all contributing vocals to the album, most of the tracks tend to sound conspicuously similar. They lack the dynamic, sinewy textures of previous efforts. Whereas Mezzanine focused its sound with the use of churning guitars and icy harpsichord, 100th Window recycles the same ambient hums and bargain-basement string arrangements. It seems that Del Naja is trying to make up for the lack of good songs by writing a mediocre one over and over again. “What Your Soul Sings” is an obvious attempt to reconstruct the magic of “Teardrop,” while “Special Cases” hits us with trite lyrics such as “Take a look around the world. You see such bad things happening.” Thought-provoking, yes?

But that’s not to say that this is a terrible record, because it’s not. It’s just not successful. And there are rays of light that break through the heavy reverb. The tribal beat thumping through “Everywhen,” the trilling keyboards on “Butterfly Caught.” These are places in which Del Naja finds life in the digital darkness, the immense coldness, of 100th Window. The strongest track on the album, “Everywhen,” is a fantastic example of how simplicity is Massive Attack’s strongest asset and why Horace Andy is their strongest vocalist. It’s a track to live inside. “You think you know,” he wails repeatedly. Well, I do know one thing: though 100th Window is flawed, Massive Attack might yet have another great album in them. It’s just a matter of coming out from behind the curtain of sound where they’re hiding.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply