As we advance further into the 21st Century only to have our civil rights regressed by Parliament into the Dark Ages, Chen Mian Kuang seeks refuge in his Delorean, activates the flux capacitor, and turns back the clock to revisit four visionary albums that were ahead of their time.
MASSIVE ATTACK – “BLUE LINES”, “PROTECTION”, “MEZZANINE”
“Blue Lines” is sci-fi soul packed into a time capsule and shot backwards through time to debut in 1989. Nothing else could adequately describe tracks like the floaty summery breezy “Daydreaming”, the pseudo jazz of “Blue Lines”, or the Marvin Gaye influenced “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” all of which still sound current, more than two decades later. This is not so much an indictment of the stagnant state of pop today, but more a compliment to the visionary music of this Bristollian trio comprising of Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, Robert “3D” Del Naja and Andy Vowles. Aided and abetted by the sweet yet assured vocals of Shara Nelson, and the distinctive rap stylings of Tricky, Massive Attack’s debut album brought musical relief to a nation wracked by poll tax and Thatcherism.
Five years later, the trio released “Protection” to widespread critical acclaim. Compared to “Blue Lines”, “Protection” is more spaced out and downtempo. It is worth buying for the title track alone, which features the exquisite vocals of Tracey Thorn. Her singing and the instrumentation coalesce to make the song sound extra-terrestrial, as if podcasted from a Type One alien civilization three galaxies away.
Then in 1997, “Mezzanine” was released. Adding fuel to pre-millenium tension and doomsday prophecies, this third album was dark, evoking a pervasive, almost suffocating sense of dread. “Inertia Creeps” best exemplifies this mood. Unlike previous efforts, this album incorporated heavy metal guitar distortion which is used with devastating effect in the chorus of “Angel”.
Massive Attack has not equalled or bettered their first three albums since.
TRICKY – “MAXINQUAYE”
Also hailed from Bristol, Tricky’s debut is regarded as one of the best trip hop albums of all time. Graduating from his time with Massive Attack, Tricky opted for a dark and menacing style thereby preempting “Mezzanine” by three years. Most of the songs feature Marlena Topley Bird’s moody druggy vocals, a perfect foil to Tricky’s unorthodox rapping style. Unlike the abrasiveness of gangster rap, the rhymes are languidly delivered yet retaining an undercurrent of passive aggressiveness. From the metal infused “Black Steel” to the voodoo skeleton click-clacks in “Ponderosa”, this CD will take you on an expedition into the weird and beautiful soundscapes of leftfield electronica.