Massive Attack – Blue Lines

Today’s choice is:Massive Attack’s Blue Lines

It’s technically only 9 tracks, but in all honesty, I’m not sure when I’ll get to it today, so feel free to start sending whenever you’re done




Massive Attack – Blue Lines: 3.5 stars

Precon: I liked Mezzanine. I’m guessing this is similar but with an “earlier” sound, but I don’t know what that means. I hope the girl is on it.

Favorite Track: Safe From Harm
Least Favorite: No turds in the punch bowl. I’ll go with Lately.

Strange to think this came out when I was 8 years old. Sounds like it could have easily been late 90’s, but 91? That’s basically the 80’s. Definitely ahead of its time. I thought it was the same time as Portishead and Tricky’s first albums, but those weren’t till 94/95.
That’s an awesome bass line on the first track.
Horace Andy’s voice teeters on the brink of annoying.
Money’s not the root of all evil. Come on rasta guys, don’t exaggerate.
Tricky seems more rap focused here than on his own albums.
I thought that last song was gonna get annoying, but it won me over and is now stuck in my head.
A solid little album, especially since it was a trailblazer of sorts. I liked Mezzanine a little better, but I’ll revisit both.


Preconceived Notions: Having recommended Massive Attack’s Mezzanine for this experiment.  I’m obviously familiar with them. I never heard all of Blue Lines, and I probably should’ve done that before now.  And yet, I’m not so sure this will be a homerun for me, as I haven’t been able to enjoy much outside of Mezzanine when I’ve heard an isolated Massive Attack song here and there…

After Listening:  Simply put, this album has too much vocals.  Normally that’s an odd criticism, but with these guys it really does reflect a difference in their song creation.  While Massive Attack’s Mezzanine brilliantly set up moods and atmosphere, that the vocals could then rest on, and then blend in and out of….this record too often forces those vocals to the front – and quite frankly in a few places they are really, really awful.  There’s that weird speak “rap” mode, to the whiny singing on emotional songs….ugh, it just makes me cringe in places.  The female singing on the album is competent, but it falls way short of the feminine vocals on Mezzanine.   The good news is, Massive Attack had their musical hats on for this record, and you can see the beginnings of a promising career.  The basslines are for the most part both solid enough to groove and varied enough to remain interesting, the keys are a bit brighter on this than Mezzanine but are an important piece of the mix, and the sparse guitars (when used) are a welcome change of pace.  I do really like the swelling synth in places as well, but I think musically this album fails to live up to the highest potential b/c it is making room for the vocals.

Favorite Tracks:   “Unfinished Sympathy” – The swelling technique of the string synths is perfect, and with the female vocals turns into a very lush emotional intro.  The spoon style percussion rhythm underneath keeps the track from getting too stale, and when the clean piano finally comes in, we get a fully flushed out piece of work.
“Lately” – The bassline on this has a distinct 70’s style cut-up.  Funky, with room to expand, the vocal tone works over top of it, even if the lyrics are pretty generic and forgettable (You’ve been acting like a cat on a hot tin roof ?).  Admittedly I would’ve like to see go to some other places, as it gets static…but it’s a reasonable effort.

Least Favorite Track – “One Love” – One of my least favorite songs in all of RC so far.  I mean, if this thing was the 1st Massive Attack song I’d heard, I never would’ve even given them another chance.   The vocals have this pseudo reggaey delivery which is actually somehow whiney on top of that.  And then there are lyrics where he stretches the syllables out in hyper annoying fashion.  The music sort of tries…scratching, samples, guitar is all present, but it’s all pretty generic.  And the generic turns into terrible due to intense repetition, in close to a 5mins piece this probably has about 20 secs of music, and maybe 10 non-repeated verses.  Simply everything that’s wrong with this album on one track.

Overall 2.8  I was pretty disappointed in this record, and I have to maybe reassess my fandom of Massive Attack – which, of course couldn’t have been that feverous given that I had never heard, this, their debut album.  I had always had problems getting into new Massive Attack albums, but I figured maybe that was b/c they had peaked with Mezzanine and were on the slide.  Now I’m thinking that maybe Mezzanine was the outlier of what they do/did, and I identify with that.  The vocals are the worst thing of what these guys do (aside from when they bring in guest vocalists), I deplore the static tracks where reggae inspired tone is delivered soullessly and aimlessly. It’s a downtone record, but that’s no excuse to have such little emotional impact.   Worse still is the fact that these vocals seem to be content to rest over a repetitive music base, and that they restrict the music from exploring places the group who later go.   I can’t say it’s a horrible record, b/c there is effort there and I know what it later blossomed into, but this is something I probably don’t need to hear again.


Preconceptions: Well, we already listened to Mezzanine, so I know that of them. I also read the Wikipedia for this record, and it’s apparently regarded as all epically awesome and stuff in England, so, we’ll see.

After Listening: I’m pretty sure I like Mezzanine much better, and while this is seen as a groundbreaking and ahead of its time album, I hear and sense too much of the things from the actual time period of its release to like it very much today, and some aspects of it even sound dated for 1991. Particularly, that god awful rapping really needs to go. I know back then it probably didn’t sound so damn dorky, and these guys are English and not from the Bronx—I get that—but man, I just don’t like anything about it, and aside from the music backing the raps, it just sounds dated. For a record that is supposed to be ahead of its time, there is no excuse for dudes in 1991 to be rapping like its1980. At times it sounds like someone stuffed Slick Rick in a time machine, sent him back to 1979, kicked his ass, neutered him, gave him some muscle relaxers, and then made him hit the stage to open for Sugar Hill Gang. That said, I did like a few songs on this record, especially when the chick sings. The Horace Andy stuff didn’t bother me nearly as much as it did some other Rc’ers, perhaps because I’m more steeped in the reggae and ska music. So, his voice and stuff didn’t bug me much. In all, I didn’t totally hate this album, just sorta hated it.

Favorites: When the chick sings and stuff
Least: Daydreaming

Overall: 2.9 stars

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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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