Third (Portishead album)

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A dark turquoise background with "P" and "3" overlaid on top of one another in lighter white
Studio album by Portishead
Released 27 April 2008 (2008-04-27)
Recorded 2005–2008
Genre Electronica, experimental rock, art rock, alternative rock
Length 49:17
Language English
Label Island
Producer Portishead
Portishead chronology
Singles from Third
  1. "Machine Gun"
    Released: 18 March 2008 (2008-03-18)
  2. "The Rip"
    Released: 9 June 2008 (2008-06-09)
  3. "Magic Doors"
    Released: 24 November 2008 (2008-11-24)

Third is the third studio album by English band Portishead. It was released on 27 April 2008 on Island Records in the United Kingdom,[1] 29 April Mercury Records in the United States, and 30 April on Universal Music Japan in Japan. It was Portishead's first studio album in 11 years and moved away from their earlier trip hop style, using instruments including analog synthesisers, the ukulele and electronic organs. Third entered the UK Albums Chart at #2[2] and the US Billboard 200 at #7,[3] becoming the band's first US top 10 record. It received critical acclaim.


Portishead produced Third themselves, recording in the band members' studios in Bristol. Many of the album's songs had existed for years as sketches before they were finished, with the members exchanging recordings and adding ideas.[4] Wanting to move away from the "trademark" trip hop sound of their first two albums, Portishead avoided using instruments they had used before. Drummer Geoff Barrow said "the basic thing was to sound like ourselves, not to repeat ourselves."[5]

The band experimented with swapping roles; Barrow played bass, and singer Beth Gibbons played guitar on "Threads". Guitarist and keyboardist Adrian Utley said Portishead were "looking for limited frequency in instruments ... limited playing, too. I pursued virtuosity for many years, learning scales and harmony, and being able to improvise through scales and chords, but technique isn't important for me any more."[4]

For "Silence", Barrow initially sampled a record that had a spoken-word Portuguese introduction. Inspired by a Wiccan theory about the number three, the band wrote a "manifesto", had it translated into Portuguese, then recreated the sample with the new words to introduce the album. To create a "deliberately harsh" effect, the band did not synchronise the guitar's delay effect with the song's tempo, creating asynchronous echoes.[4]

Portishead used analogue synthesisers including the ARP 2600.

Portishead used several vintage analogue synthesisers, including a Korg MS-20, ARP 2600, Siel Orchestra, VCS 3, and a clavioline, an electronic keyboard that predates the synthesiser. The Siel Orchestra's sequencer was not sophisticated enough to play the arpeggios in "The Rip", so the band recorded the notes individually and edited them into an arpeggio pattern. For the song's first half, Utley played a toy acoustic guitar he found in a junk shop.[4]

"Deep Water", played on ukulele, was inspired by Steve Martin's performance of "Tonight You Belong to Me" in the 1979 film The Jerk. Utley was initially unimpressed with the song, saying: "I couldn't get with it at all, didn't like it. Geoff said he wanted to put these backing vocals on it, and I said I was having nothing to do with it. We didn't argue, I just conceded on that."[4]

To create the rhythm in "Machine Gun", the band sampled the drum machine in an old electronic organ. The song's synthesiser outro was inspired by the film soundtracks of John Carpenter.[4] For "Magic Doors", the band added hurdy gurdy, and saxophone played by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp. According to Utley, "we made him be a free jazz player that day ... we told him just to go fucking mad, to freak the fuck out. He had to move out of the room, so we couldn't see him, so he'd feel less inhibited."[4]


On 8 and 9 December 2007, Portishead curated the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England, and performed their first full sets in nearly 10 years,[6] premiering five tracks from Third: "Silence", "Hunter", "The Rip", "We Carry On", and "Machine Gun". On 21 January 2008, Portishead announced a European tour to support the album,[7] with a headline spot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on 26 April 2008,[8] their only US date on the tour.

On 21 April 2008, a week before its release, Third was made available as a free stream on, attracting 327,000 listeners in 24 hours. It was the first time had made an album available before its release.[9]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (85/100)[10]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[11]
The A.V Club (A-)[12]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[13]
Pitchfork Media (8.8/10)[14]
Billboard (favorable)[15]
Uncut 5/5 stars[16]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[17]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[18]
Mojo 4/5 stars[19]
Slant Magazine 4.5/5 stars[20]
NME (9/10)[21]
PopMatters 9/10 stars[22]
Drowned in Sound (8/10)[23]

Third received critical acclaim. At the review aggregate website Metacritic, the album has an average rating of 85 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".[10] Many critics praised the band's change in sound after a long absence.

Alan Ranta of PopMatters gave Third nine out of ten, writing that "history will eventually see it rank on par with the rest of [Portishead's] legendary works."[22] Allmusic gave it four and a half out of five stars, calling it "utterly riveting and endlessly absorbing" and "genuinely, startlingly original."[11] Pitchfork Media awarded the album 8.8 out of 10 and named it that week's "best new music", writing that it was "a staggering transformation and a return to form that was never lost, an ideal adaptation by a group that many people didn't know they needed to hear again."[14] The AV Club graded the album A- and wrote that "nearly every track provides some little sonic goodie midway through as a reward for continued attention after all these years. For once, it's worth the effort."[12] The Guardian awarded it five out of five stars, and wrote that it "is initially more a record to admire than to love ... But after several listens, Third's majesty unfurls."[17]

Third was listed as one of the best albums of 2008 by several publications.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Silence"   4:58
2. "Hunter"   3:57
3. "Nylon Smile"   3:16
4. "The Rip"   4:29
5. "Plastic"   3:27
6. "We Carry On"   6:27
7. "Deep Water"   1:31
8. "Machine Gun" (Barrow / Gibbons) 4:43
9. "Small"   6:45
10. "Magic Doors" (Barrow / Gibbons / John Baggot) 3:32
11. "Threads"   5:45

Release history[edit]

Third has been released in various formats.[11][22][24]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 28 April 2008 Island LP 1764104
LP box set 1766390
CD 1764013
United States 29 April 2008 Mercury/Go! CD B0011141-02
LP B0011141-01
Japan 30 April 2008 Universal Music Japan CD UICI-1069


Chart (2008) Peak
Australian Album Chart 9[citation needed]
Austrian Album Chart 4[25]
Belgian Album Chart (FL) 3[citation needed]
Belgian Album Chart (WA) 6[citation needed]
Canadian Album Chart 3[26]
Danish Album Chart 2[citation needed]
Dutch Album Chart 6[27]
Finnish Album Chart 9[citation needed]
French Album Chart 3[citation needed]
German Album Chart 6[28]
Greek Album Chart 2[citation needed]
Italian Album Chart 8[citation needed]
Japanese Album Chart 28[citation needed]
Mexican Album Chart 30[citation needed]
New Zealand Album Chart 9[citation needed]
Norwegian Album Chart 6[citation needed]
Portuguese Album Chart 5[citation needed]
Spanish Album Chart 16[citation needed]
Swedish Album Chart 18[citation needed]
Swiss Album Chart 2[29]
UK Albums Chart 2[2]
US Billboard 200 7[3]


  1. ^ "iTunes – Music – Third by Portishead". iTunes. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  2. ^ a b "PORTISHEAD - Artist - Official Charts". Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  3. ^ a b Hasty, Katy (7 May 2008). "Madonna Leads Busy Billboard 200 With 7th No. 1". Billboard magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Forrest, Peter (November 2008). "Adrian Utley: Recording Third". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Pareles, John (April 13, 2008). "After a Decade Away, Portishead Floats Back". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Review of December 2007 ATP shows Retrieved 27 December 2007
  7. ^ Portishead announce 2008 tour NME. Retrieved 27 January 2008
  8. ^ "Coachella lineup". Retrieved 22 January 2008. 
  9. ^ "Portishead fans flock together for early album stream". 1 May 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Third Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  11. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Third (Portishead album) at AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  12. ^ a b Matos, Michaelangelo (28 April 2008). "Portishead: Third | Music | Music Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  13. ^ Reviewed by Mike Bruno (18 April 2008). "Third Review | Music Reviews and News". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  14. ^ a b "Portishead: Third | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ Uncut. May 2008. "Third is the most stunning, stark and superb Portishead album yet." 
  17. ^ a b Jude Rogers (25 April 2008). "CD: Portishead, Third | Music | The Guardian". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  18. ^ Rob Sheffield (1 May 2008). "Third | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  19. ^ Mojo. May 2008. "Third shows Portishead in the tradition of, say, Fairpoint Convention as much as Massive Attack, and though it might not convert sceptics it is convincing, and occasionally thrilling, demonstration that the wilderness can be a great place to cook up new ideas." 
  20. ^ "Portishead: Third". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  21. ^ "NME Album Reviews – Portishead". NME. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  22. ^ a b c Ranta, Alan. "Portishead: Third < Music PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Third at Discogs (list of releases)
  25. ^ Austrian Album Chart
  26. ^ Williams, John (7 May 2008). "Madonna's 'Candy' hits No. 1". Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  27. ^ Kink FM
  28. ^ German Album Chart
  29. ^ Swiss Album Chart

External links[edit]