Portishead is easily one of my favorite bands. They are one of the last ones on my list of "people to see in concert before I die". They make such groovy, trip-hop music that they are often credited for defining the genre. "Dummy" was an instant classic coming out of the gate and the self-titled second album was no slouch, either. Watching the "Portishead:Live" DVD in full surround just adds to the appreciation of the way they can engineer samples, hip-hop drums, spaghetti western guitars and Beth Gibbons' haunting voice to make a beautiful sadness creep into your ears.So us diehard fans were left to wait 10 years before another album, and "3rd" was it. I have to be honest, though: it is abit disappointing. I'm a grown-up enough music fan to know not to expect every album by a defining artist to be as good as the last (everything Jewel did after "Pieces"), or to sound exactly as they used to (a la Metallica's short-hair days), but with 10 years in between albums you have to expect SOMETHING.
Portishead-head Mike Utley has re-crafted their sound to be more rock-oriented yet heavy on noise samples at the same time. Listening to many of the tracks reminded me of hearing a good, heavy rock song on the radio being broken up by static and a jazz station interrupting on the same frequency. Not even Beth Gibbons' sorrowful, emotional vocals could lush me into enjoying the total package. The lyrical quality and subject matter seemed to take a back seat in this album as opposed to meshing perfectly in and out of the beats as in the previous two.
I listened to the "Third" about 10 times to make sure that I wasn't just being too picky. It isn't a horribly bad CD or anything like that, but if I was trying to get someone into Portishead I would definitely not pick this CD first or second for them to listen to. Had this been another band, I probably would have enjoyed it a little more. Even in their sorrow, Portishead managed to get you into a groove and even do a little bit of head-bobbing. Not so much on "Third". This album seems to focus on the disjointedness of broken relationships as opposed to going with the flow of your emotions.