Massive Attack – Mezzanine - 4/5
One of the hazards of having long hair amidst a crowd of drunks is that very rapidly you become stereotyped, and with my present occupation this happens with relative frequency; it becomes an invitation to mention every band under the sun with everyone claiming to be an expert on rock, telling me how great their favourite "Doors" album is, or how brutal metalcore can be. Well that, or they think you're a woman, but that doesn't happen so often thankfully. The day this album was brought to my attention was not that different, but rather than throwing out phrases such as “oh the guitars, fuck me the guitars” before pretending to air guitar and stumbling backwards, this drunks description actually had me intrigued. He told me this was the perfect album to fuck to.
Now hear me out, because this is actually I problem I've considered; you bring a woman back to your place and all that's needed is some mood-setting music, but what the hell says “I want to hit that?” If you believe in 'the fresh prince' you'd end up with James Brown or Barry White and probably get laughed at. There's classical music but then you'd look pretentious and suffer the lack of a solid beat. Drum and Bass is too far the opposite way, unless you can break the sound barrier with each thrust it'll be too quick paced. If she looks the type, grindcore could work but then you'd have to put up with the fact that she might well end up tearing you limb from limb afterwards and/or during. Kenny G could almost work if not for the slight drawback everything sounds like he had a cheesy 70s porno in mind when writing it. Point in fact, this album may be the closest thing to that perfect all-purpose album.
The beat is strong enough to be heard but at a pace that says passion without getting all wussy on you; you can remove all thoughts of Portishead's brand of pain-laden and depressive trip-hop, as it's certainly still dark and gothic in tone but its almost sensual, retaining a kinky twisted sense of rhythm. In fact, the only foreseeable problem is that when “Tear Drop” kicks in she'll pause and ask “Isn't this the theme from House?” (It is, in fact, the theme from House), but when the dream-like vocals of guest vocalist Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins) comes into play this question quickly fades away. And yet she isn't the vocal highlight of the album; the well known vocalist layered on top of the instantly recognisable theme tune paling in comparison to their own hip-hop vocalist who would make his last appearance here, or the little known reggae artist that would open up the release.
There's always the risk when a band gets spouted as 'influential' and a 'pivotal band' in the success of a given genre that all it really means is that they've made it more palletable to a wider audience of people, but this isn't the case here. They could easily have done so, but the decision to become more experimental with their style, taking in a wider variety of influences to distinguish the tracks and still producing a level of darkness unprecedented at the time is not something that's lost on me. Mezzanine is the culmination of three musicians returning after a short hiatus with their own opinions, their own style and their own deep set conflict with one another as they became continually more difficult to work with, but rather than make a documentary about it, they got it all down here; the highs, the lows, the anger and the sadness, and that all makes this something quite unique.
Highlights: Angel, Inertia Creeps, Mezzanine