Third (Portishead album)
|Studio album by Portishead|
|Released||27 April 2008|
|Genre||Electronica, experimental rock, psychedelic rock|
|Singles from Third|
Third is the third studio album by English band Portishead. It was released on 27 April 2008 on Island Records in the United Kingdom, 29 April on Mercury Records in the United States and 30 April on Universal Music Japan in Japan. Third was Portishead's first studio album in 11 years and moved away from their earlier trip hop style, with influences including krautrock, surf rock, doo wop and film soundtracks by John Carpenter. It received critical acclaim and was listed as one of the best albums of 2008 by several publications.
In 1998, following three years of Portishead tours and a divorce, drummer and songwriter Geoff Barrow put Portishead on hiatus and went to Australia. He told Drowned in Sound: "I couldn't find anything I liked musically in anybody, in anything." Portishead guitarist and keyboardist Adrian Utley joined him to work on new material, but they were not satisfied with the results.
In 2003, Barrow wrote "Magic Doors", which he described as "an opening ... then we ended up going back and forth, hating everything and then liking everything, and we had to decide whether to carry on." He and Utley co-produced the 2005 Coral album The Invisible Invasion; the process proved inspiring, as, according to Barrow, "here’s me and Ade, these older dudes, too scared to even play a note because we were scared we’d hate it, and there’s them, just being able to write a soundtrack in an afternoon."
Portishead self-produced Third in their Bristol studios. Many of the album's songs existed for years as sketches, with the members exchanging recordings and adding ideas. By 2006, Portishead had prepared "six or seven" tracks; Barrow said most of the record was written during a "spurt" at the end of 2007.
Wanting to move away from the "trademark" trip hop sound of their first two albums, Portishead avoided using instruments they had used before; Barrow said "the basic thing was to sound like ourselves, not to repeat ourselves." The band experimented with swapping roles; Barrow played bass, and singer Beth Gibbons played guitar on "Threads". 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."
For the first track, "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.
Portishead used several analog synthesisers, including a Korg MS-20, ARP 2600, Siel Orchestra and VCS 3. They also used 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. Utley played a toy acoustic guitar he found in a junk shop.
"Deep Water" was inspired by Steve Martin's performance of "Tonight You Belong to Me" in the 1979 film The Jerk. Utley was initially unimpressed with Barrow's idea for the song, and said: "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."
To create the rhythm in "Machine Gun", Portishead sampled the drum machine in an old electronic organ. The song's synthesiser outro was inspired by the film soundtracks of John Carpenter. 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."
Third departs from Portishead's trip hop sound, the genre they had made famous with their albums Dummy (1994) and Portishead (1997). It contains no turntable scratching, a hallmark of their earlier albums. Gareth Grundy of Q wrote that "Third 's sole link with the past is Gibbons' voice ... Everything else has been binned, the hip hop, the cinematic feel, the lot." Instead, the album contains "muscular" synthesisers, drum breaks and abrupt endings, with "propulsive" krautrock rhythms, break beats, cathedral organ, "Moroccan drones" and surf rock. The AV Club wrote that singer Gibbons "sounds more hollowed-out and harrowed than ever, a human nervous twitch on too much coffee and too little sleep".
The opening track, "Silence", has a "propulsive" drum loop and "Morse code"-like guitar. "We Carry On" has a "claustrophobic" two-note electro riff; Rolling Stone likened the track to the work of the American psychedelic band Silver Apples. "Deep Water" is a "ukulele doo-wop". "Machine Gun" is driven by a "mechanical rhythm" that gives way to synthesisers Drowned in Sound likened to the soundtracks of the 1980s films The Terminator and Blade Runner. "Magic Doors" features "huge" piano chords, "tick-tocking" cowbell, and "corrupted" brass.
Release and promotion
Third was released on 27 April 2008 on Island Records in the United Kingdom, 29 April Mercury Records in the United States, and 30 April on Universal Music Japan in Japan. It entered the UK Albums Chart at #2 and the US Billboard 200 at #7, becoming Portishead's first US top 10 record.
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, including tracks from Third. On 21 January 2008, Portishead announced a European tour to support the album, with a headline spot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on 26 April 2008, 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 Last.fm, attracting 327,000 listeners in 24 hours. It was the first time Last.fm had made an album available before its release.
|The A.V Club||A-|
|Drowned in Sound||8/10|
In his review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine said Third was "genuinely, startlingly original" and "utterly riveting and endlessly absorbing". The A.V. Club 's Michaelangelo Matos 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." Reviewing Third for Drowned in Sound, Nick Southall wrote that "several individual songs drift by almost unnoticed at first, contributing little more than a sense of unease to the collective memory of the album; an impression of oppression. Those numbers that do stand out, though, drag the record close to magnificence." Guardian reviewer Jude Rogers found that the album "is initially more a record to admire than to love ... But after several listens, Third 's majesty unfurls."
Louis Pattison of NME wrote that Third was "adventurous, sometimes dauntingly so – but seldom anything less than compelling" and declared it "Portishead's best album yet." PopMatters' Alan Ranta wrote that "history will eventually see it rank on par with the rest of [Portishead's] legendary works". Pitchfork Media's Nate Patrin awarded the album the website's "best new music" accolade, 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." Rolling Stone magazine's Rob Sheffield found Third to be "an unexpected yet totally impressive return", and Mike Bruno of Entertainment Weekly said it was a "less immediately accessible effort than Portishead's more groove-oriented earlier work, but it's no less gorgeous." Gareth Grundy of Q gave the record three stars out of five and was disappointed that Portishead had moved away from their earlier sound, writing: "Third will probably be more admired than listened to ... Dummy was a challenging record that just happened to find an audience. Third merely turns up the black until the darkness is overwhelming."
|6.||"We Carry On"||6:27|
|8.||"Machine Gun" (Barrow / Gibbons)||4:43|
|10.||"Magic Doors" (Barrow / Gibbons / John Baggot)||3:32|
|UK digital download bonus track|
|12.||"Magic Doors (Live on Current TV)"||2:44|
|EU and Japan iTunes Store bonus track|
|12.||"We Carry On (Live on Current TV)"||6:15|
|US iTunes Store pre-order bonus track|
|12.||"Threads (Live on Current TV)"||6:29|
|Japan Enhanced CD bonus video|
|12.||"Ade's House / Machine Gun"||10:36|
As per the liner notes:
- Beth Gibbons – Lead vocals, guitar on "Threads"
- Geoff Barrow – Drums, bass, keyboards
- Adrian Utley – Electric and acoustic guitars, ukulele, keyboards
- Charlotte Nicholls – Cello on "Silence" and "Threads"
- Claudio Campos – Spoken intro on "Silence"
- Wendy Bertram – Bassoon on "The Rip"
- Team Brick – Clarinet on "Plastic," vocals on "Deep Water"
- David Poore & Ben Salisbury ("the Somerfield Workers Choir") – Vocals on "Deep Water"
- Will Gregory – Saxophone on "Magic Doors" and "Threads"
- John Baggott – Rhodes piano on "Magic Doors"
- Stu Barker – Hurdy-gurdy on "Magic Doors"
- Clive Deamer – Drums on "Threads"
- Jim Barr – Bass on "Threads"
Charts and certifications
|United Kingdom||28 April 2008||Island||LP||1764104|
|LP box set||1766390|
|United States||29 April 2008||Mercury/Go!||LP||B0011141-01|
|Japan||30 April 2008||Universal Music Japan||CD||UICI-1069|
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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.Missing or empty
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Third is the most stunning, stark and superb Portishead album yet.Missing or empty
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- Third at Discogs (list of releases)
- Third at Metacritic
- Third at Discogs (list of releases)
- Third on Last.fm
- Portishead – Track by Track on YouTube NME interview with Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley discussing the tracks on the album.