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Portishead - Third

Released on Mercury Records, 4/29/08

Portishead standardized trip-hop back in the 90s, and after roughly ten years they give us Third, their aptly named third major release. Their music definitively changed the way people listened to music, infiltrating "pop" and pop culture as we know it today. The Bristol-based trio has taken a distinctive new course with their Third apex.

Third leaked its way onto the Internet way before its actual release date. After ten long years, Portishead fans were brimming with aching anticipation. It goes without saying that Portishead’s previous releases were stunning way posts where these sound smiths chiseled their niche.

Beth Gibbons’ quivering vocals still lends the familiar fem lead in Third. Nevertheless, the music takes an unflattering jangle of noisemakers and a multitude of processors that Radiohead may be able to execute successfully but while Portishead cannot. This time the turntables are off and the electronic synth sound is vacant and as tasty as dirt. Third is like a tube-fed Radiohead inspiration that got twisted and vomited up a cacophony of off keys and pointless sounds.

Third churns a hot pot of ugly sounds and makes a sloppy gothic weave into what was once a weird beauty with which many melancholy folk could connect. In Third we find Portishead not hopelessly hopeful as they sounded a decade ago with Dummy. No, this album slings you far into a gravitational portal of orchestrated tortured chamber pop leaving you lost in space.

"Deep Water" starts in with a lonely ukulele with Gibbons’ angelic discord wincing along; the tune could have been easily mistaken as a part of the Juno Soundtrack. "Machine Gun" beats at you with a trebly darted, gunfire rhythm reminiscent of the 80s band, Art of Noise meanwhile "Hunter" resonates something out of a "Twin Peaks" episode. "Plastic" distracts your listening direction with an intermittent helicopter-fracas-interruptus. The last track, "Threads", comes off as an elementary wallop of effort by an amateur club act trying to squeeze any ounce of intensity that Portishead had been able to pour forth so effortlessly before.

As if Portishead were unconcerned with the conventional, Third is not a tryst for a fan or an ear candy for the curious stranger. The inspiration that may have sparked some other bands (think Halou) may commandeer the torch where Portishead had lit a flame.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.