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Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Circa)

Time to set foot on the misery mile. The ashes of the Bristol scene have been scattered and by the sounds of things mourning is the order of the day. Portishead's eponymous follow-up scraped the bottom of the lead lined barrel, Tricky's last two efforts have all the charm of an obscene caller muttering in your ear while he mangles his washing and label mates and Massive proteges Alpha are offering evening classes in Taking Life Too Seriously. Mezzanine might therefore seem to be yet another instalment of what is begging to be called trip-goth. But before you get the Nietzsche and packet of Bic's not so Safety Razors in give Mezzanine a chance. Its true that the opening Angel might be the musical equivalent of drowning a baby in the bath and Risingson quite possibly the most thorough put down Tricky will ever experience but Mezzanine is capable of both light and shade.

Its only on Teardrop, the third track in where all sensible men and women brace themselves for the warbling of ex-Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser - a woman who normally sings like her tongue has been fused to the roof of her mouth - that suddenly you realise two things: one she can speak English like an adult human being, two, when she sings it's like bright light sidling under a pair of rippling black curtains. This is, depending on your viewpoint Massive Attack's biggest problem, while Beth Gibbon sounds like she's going to slash her wrists and Tricky like he's drinking her blood, Massive Attack, despite the Cure sample, don't give the impression that they're fully paid up members of the Joy Division fanclub. So despite the giddy rush of drums and cable-thick guitars of Inertia Creeps or the dissolving chaos of Group Four, Mezzanine sounds more like a guard than an inmate. It is dark out there, at times, but as any white coat wearing scientist will tell you, darkness is only the absence of light and Mezzanine, is both light and shade.

by Robert Lowe