Retro Review: Portishead ‘Dummy’

So, it’s the end of another month and I bring you yet another Retro Review. Now, in the comments of the last review, I got two requests, both for metal albums (don’t worry guys, I’ve got them saved and will come to them later). However, to try and introduce some diversity into the music section, I wanted to do a review for something that might not be exactly expected. So, with this review, I’m doing something completely out of the style of music that I usually review in the Bloody-Disgusting music section: Portishead’s debut album, ‘Dummy’. 

portisheaddummycover
Don’t forget to leave a comment with what you would like next months Retro Review to be! In the meantime, check after the jump to hear my thoughts on ‘Dummy’. 

Released in 1994, Portishead’s ‘Dummy’ is an album that helped take music into new directions. Arriving in the beginnings of the birth of trip-hop, later bands such as the Deftones and Nine Inch Nails would cite trip-hop as a source of inspiration. The sound and atmosphere of trip-hop is built around somewhat gritty, grimy sounding tracks that hearken the listener back to earlier times. ‘Dummy’ is no exception to this: When I listen to the album, I think of the singer standing on a stage in a 1930’s smoky bar, a single spotlight illuminating her as she sways hypnotically side to side, as if in a trance. I think of dirty alleys where at the entrance, there is a single streetlight illuminating a lonely woman directly underneath. Basically, I envision the world of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and I love every second. 
The album starts off with ‘Mysterons’, a seductive track that pulls the listener in with eerie melodies, sultry vocals and an ethereal atmosphere. Mixed beautifully, ‘Mysterons’ is the perfect example of what to expect from the rest of the album. Ending with synths made to sound almost like haunted howling, you just know that no matter what, the tone of this album is a beautiful darkness. 
Production-wise, this album is a joy to listen to. The recording process that Portishead utilized involved a great deal of recording to tape and then sampling directly from the tapes. Doing this added the “scratchy LP” effect that pervades throughout the album. Another benefit from this method of recording is that the album has wonderful analog warmth to it. Listening through high quality headphones or through a good sound system is a must for this album. 
Some tracks that stand out, in my mind, are ‘Wandering Star’ which has a very rhythmic bass melody juxtaposed with Beth Gibbons’ almost erotic crooning. ‘Biscuit’ to this day is still almost frightening and feels like something I would hear in a haunted house. ‘Roads’ is a gorgeous, melancholic song that is heart wrenching, especially during the following lyrics: ‘I got nobody on my side and surely that ain’t right/Surely that ain’t right’.
‘Dummy’ is one of those albums that are absolutely necessary for every album collection. I loved it the first time I hit play and I still love it in its entirety. 
5 out of 5 skulls