1997, Music

Portishead (1997)

If we force an artificial divide onto the trip hop spectrum, I am very much on the zany, insane, unpredictable Bjork side of it, rather than the moodier, “darker” but more uniform side that Portishead finds itself in.

That being said, I still quite like this band and what they do. Portishead connects with different traditions than the other trip hop artists and bands I’m familiar with, but they still successfully do the thing that I think distinguishes all great trip hop: using hip hop and electronica production to popular music; in this case, music that owes a lot to some of the more artsy pop of the 1960s, in addition to soul and R&B, and singer-songwriter. (In many ways, jazz is an influence to, as noted by the kind of awful genre names associated with this band, but it’s jazz filtered through the prism of popular music – Bacharach and what have you.)

I haven’t listened to Dummy in a fairly long time, so I can’t tell you off-hand if I prefer that record to this one, or vice versa. But I don’t really get the criticism that the songs here are weaker than on the debut. From memory at least, I feel like they are equally strong.

This is also a pretty good entry point to the genre, because it’s not as weird as some trip hop (cough Bjork cough).


All tracks written by Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley, except where noted.

  1. “Cowboys” (Barrow, Gibbons) 4:38
  2. “All Mine” 3:59
  3. “Undenied” (Barrow, Gibbons) 4:18
  4. “Half Day Closing” 3:49
  5. “Over” 4:00
  6. “Humming” 6:02
  7. “Mourning Air” 4:11
  8. “Seven Months” 4:15
  9. “Only You” 4:59
  10. “Elysium” 5:54
  11. “Western Eyes” 3:57

All songs produced by Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley, Beth Gibbons and Dave McDonald.

  • Beth Gibbons – Vocals
  • Adrian Utley – Guitar, bass, synthesizer, Rhodes piano
  • Geoff Barrow – Drums, turntables, programming, samples

Additional musicians

  • Clive Deamer – Drums
  • Sean Atkins – Additional vocals
  • John Baggot – Organ, piano
  • Andy Hague, Ben Waghorn, John Cornick – Horns
  • S. Cooper – Violin

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