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Monday, May 8, 2017

Number 2 - "Machine Gun" - Portishead

Beth Gibbons from Portishead with Beth Gibbons from Portishead


Machine Gun
- Portishead

Third (2009)

I hear tell that they once did this live with Chuck D from Public Enemy rapping "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" over the instrumental section. If anyone knows of a recording of whatever quality of that, I will pay good money for it. Pints of blood even.

And so, much as I try to keep these fresh, it's very hard to find anything at all original to say about this track, and that may well be some sort of testament to why it belongs here.

Yes, the band that we loved, the band that the nineties regaled for never putting a single note in the wrong place, well we turned around one day and, like your best mate from high school, we realised we hadn't heard from them in a decade. Not another flipping overdose???

Well, no. This story ends well. Not dead, only resting. Only taking the requisite time to produce  again at the standards we expected.



The song is everything that was ever great about the band, it's a micro-studious take on one riff married to a vocal that never sits perfectly at ease with its musical partner, and in the zone of that semi-awkward interplay greatness is born.

Only Beth Gibbons could render a melody this jarring and disjointed so effectively well-contained and melodious. Ask yourself when was the last time you had some many weird minor notes bouncing round your head was, as you humm along as if it were some Madonna chorusline.

So once again we see the prevailing formula in effect. Great art is crafted from one well-conceived concept, however humble, rendered by artists whose focus is singular and set within a coherent and meaningful purpose.

And should you ever have the opportunity to catch these folk at work live, do not pass it up at any reasonable price, for the aesthetic they bring to their songwriting is unlike many acts, equally present in their performance work.

Music was only capable of clambering a mere rung higher than this during the decade. And tomorrow, having spent literally years ascertaining that fact, I'm finally ready to declare it. Seems like an anticlimax now. It feels like in finishing this thing I have to kill it ... gulp!

See you tomorrow.