Mezzanine (album)

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Mezzanine
Massive Attack - Mezzanine.png
Studio album by
Released20 April 1998 (1998-04-20)
Recorded1997–1998
StudioMassive Attack and Christchurch, Bristol
Genre
Length63:29
Label
Producer
Massive Attack chronology
Protection
(1994)
Mezzanine
(1998)
100th Window
(2003)
Singles from Mezzanine
  1. "Risingson"
    Released: 7 July 1997
  2. "Teardrop"
    Released: 27 April 1998
  3. "Angel"
    Released: 13 July 1998
  4. "Inertia Creeps"
    Released: 21 September 1998

Mezzanine is the third studio album by English electronic music group Massive Attack, released on 20 April 1998 by Circa and Virgin Records. Produced by Massive Attack and Neil Davidge, it saw the duo expanding their trip hop sound to electronica stylings,[1] with diverse influences from new wave,[2] rock, hip hop, and dub music.[3]

Mezzanine topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, becoming the group's most commercially successful album to date. It spawned four singles: "Risingson", "Teardrop", "Angel", and "Inertia Creeps".

Background[edit]

The production of Mezzanine was a stressful process. With tensions arising within the group, it almost split the band.[2] They disagreed about the musical direction for the new material. Robert Del Naja first started making samples from new wave records, from the likes of Wire and Gang of Four: it was the music he'd listened to in his early teens. Del Naja wanted Massive Attack to make an album having an atmosphere of edginess and paranoia present in the music of the late 1970s. Grant Marshall, also a new wave fan himself, supported this idea, as he wanted to get away from the "urban soul" of their previous work, Protection, but Andrew Vowles was sceptical.[4] The sessions continued with Vowles and Marshall working on bass and drum loops, while Del Naja carried on experimenting from new wave records. However, during the recording, the group decided to release a new track, "Superpredators" sampling extensively a Siouxsie and the Banshees' song called "Metal Postcard", for the movie soundtrack of The Jackal;[5] the track would be included on the Japanese version of Mezzanine.[6]

The album was initially meant to be released in December 1997, but was delayed by four months, with Del Naja spending most of the time in the studio "making tracks, tearing them apart, fucking [sic] them up, panicking, then starting again."[7] The album's working title was Damaged Goods, which was the name of the Gang of Four's 1978 debut single.[4]

Mezzanine was a pretty sketchy album in terms of the way we worked, because the band, as reported a lot at that time, were not getting on. So I'd be in the studio working with one of the members and someone else would come in, then the person I had been working with would leave and I'd have to change the track I was working on because they didn't want to work on that track, they wanted to work on something different. Sometimes I'd be working on perhaps four different tracks in one day, which was a pretty messy way to work.

– Neil Davidge in an interview with Sound on Sound.[8]

Composition[edit]

Mezzanine has been described as featuring trip hop[9] and electronica,[1] with a "dark claustrophobia" coupled with a melancholy.[3] Musically, the album is a major departure from the jazzy and laidback sound of the first two albums, Blue Lines and Protection, invoking the dark undercurrents which had always been present in the collective's music. The album's textured and deep tone relies heavily on abstract and ambient sounds, as demonstrated in the song "Angel" among others.

Similar to their previous albums, several songs use one or more samples, ranging from Isaac Hayes to The Cure. In 1998, Manfred Mann sued Massive Attack for unauthorised use of a sample of the song "Tribute" from Manfred Mann's Earth Band's eponymous 1972 album, used on "Black Milk".[10] The song has subsequently appeared as "Black Melt" on later releases and at live performances, with the sample removed. Later digital editions of Mezzanine have retained the original song, with Mann being added to the songwriting credits.[11][12]

Mezzanine marked the parting of band member Vowles, due to creative conflicts. Reggae artist Horace Andy also performed several spots on the album.[13]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[14]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[9]
The Guardian5/5 stars[15]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[16]
Muzik10/10[17]
NME8/10[18]
Pitchfork9.3/10[19]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[21]
Uncut5/5 stars[22]

Mezzanine entered the UK Albums Chart at number one,[23] and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 4 September 1998 and then double platinum on 22 July 2013.[24] However, it failed to share the same success in North America, peaking at number 60 on the Billboard 200[25] and number 51 on the Canadian Albums Chart.[26]

The album received significant critical acclaim, which praised the collective's new sound. Rolling Stone's Barney Hoskyns, although praising the album, pointed to its flaws: "Sometimes rhythm and texture are explored at the expense of memorable tunes, and the absence of the bizarre Tricky [...] only highlights the flat, monotonous rapping of the group's 3-D."[20] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album a two-star honorable mention rating and selected "Risingson" and "Man Next Door" as highlights.[27]

John Bush of AllMusic also had positive words for the album's song "Inertia Creeps", saying it "could well be the highlight, another feature for just the core threesome. With eerie atmospherics, fuzz-tone guitars, and a wealth of effects, the song could well be the best production from the best team of producers the electronic world had ever seen."[14]

Years after the album was released, it was placed on several best-of lists in the UK and the United States. In 2000, Q magazine placed Mezzanine at number 15 on its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 412 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[28] In 2013, it was placed at 215 on NME's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[1]

As of 2010, sales in the United States have exceeded 560,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[29] An instrumental cover version of the song "Dissolved Girl" was written by composer Ramin Djawadi for Westworld season 3, who previously worked with Neil Davidge for Clash of the Titans 2010 film soundtrack.

Mezzanine DNA[edit]

On the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine's release, the record was encoded into synthetic DNA—a first for an album. The project was in collaboration with TurboBeads Labs in Switzerland; the digital audio of the album was stored in the form of genetic information. The audio was then compressed using Opus, coded in DNA molecules—with 920,000 short DNA strands containing all the data—and then poured into 5,000 tiny glass beads.[30]

20th anniversary reissue[edit]

The album was remastered and reissued for its 20th anniversary. The 2CD anniversary edition was released on 23 August 2019, and comes with a bonus disc of previously unreleased dub mixes by the Mad Professor, which were originally intended to be released on a Mezzanine remix album. A triple-LP vinyl version was also slated to be released; initially delayed from its proposed release date, the 3LP version was eventually canceled altogether.[31]

In lieu of the vinyl reissue, the Mad Professor remixes were released as a pink-coloured 12" vinyl single entitled Massive Attack v Mad Professor Part II (Mezzanine Remix Tapes '98) on 20 September 2019.[32]

The Mad Professor remixes include "Metal Banshee" (an unreleased dub version of "Superpredators", which was a reworked cover of "Metal Postcard" originally by Siouxsie and the Banshees), and "Wire", a track recorded for the soundtrack to the film Welcome to Sarajevo.[33][34]

Track listing[edit]

Mezzanine
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Angel"6:18
2."Risingson"
4:58
3."Teardrop"
5:29
4."Inertia Creeps"
  • Del Naja
  • Marshall
  • Vowles
5:56
5."Exchange"4:11
6."Dissolved Girl"
6:07
7."Man Next Door"John Holt5:55
8."Black Milk"
6:20
9."Mezzanine"
  • Del Naja
  • Marshall
  • Vowles
5:54
10."Group Four"
  • Del Naja
  • Marshall
  • Vowles
  • Fraser
8:13
11."(Exchange)"
  • Hilliard
  • Garson
4:08
Japanese edition bonus track[6]
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."Superpredators" (The Mad Professor Remix[35])5:16
Total length:68:45
20th anniversary reissue disc two: Massive Attack v Mad Professor Part II (Mezzanine Remix Tapes '98)
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Metal Banshee" (Mad Professor Mix One)McKay・Morris・Sioux・Severin5:49
2."Angel" (Angel Dust)Del Naja・Marshall・Hinds・Vowles6:04
3."Teardrop" (Mazaruni Dub One)Del Naja・Fraser・Marshall・Vowles6:05
4."Inertia Creeps" (Floating on Dubwise)Del Naja・Marshall・Vowles6:05
5."Risingson" (Setting Sun Dub Two)Del Naja・Marshall・Vowles4:53
6."Exchange" (Mountain Steppers Dub)Hillard・Garson5:44
7."Wire" (Leaping Dub)Del Naja・Marshall・Vowles5:21
8."Group Four" (Security Forces Dub)Del Naja・Fraser・Marshall・Vowles8:14

Sample credits[36]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Mezzanine.[36]

Studios[edit]

Massive Attack[edit]

  • Robert Del Naja – arrangements, vocals, programming, keyboards, samples
  • Grant Marshall – arrangements, vocals, programming, keyboards, samples
  • Andrew Vowles – arrangements, programming, keyboards, samples

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Neil Davidge – arrangements, programming, keyboards, samples
  • Horace Andy – vocals
  • Elizabeth Fraser – vocals
  • Sara Jay – vocals
  • Angelo Bruschini – guitars
  • Jon Harris, Bob Locke, Winston Blissett – bass guitars
  • Andy Gangadeen – drums
  • Dave Jenkins, Michael Timothy – additional keyboards

Technical[edit]

  • Massive Attack – production
  • Neil Davidge – production
  • Jan Kybert – Pro Tools
  • Lee Shepherd – engineering
  • Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing
  • Jan Kybert – mixing assistance
  • P-Dub – mixing assistance
  • Tim Young – editing

Artwork[edit]

  • Nick Knight – photography
  • Tom Hingston – art direction, design
  • Robert Del Naja – art direction, design

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[71] Platinum 70,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[72] Gold 25,000*
Belgium (BEA)[73] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[74] Gold 50,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[75] 2× Platinum 40,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[76] 2× Gold 200,000*
Germany (BVMI)[77] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[78] Gold 25,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[79] Gold 50,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[80] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[81] Gold 25,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[82] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[83] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[84] none 560,000[29]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[85] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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