In 2008 I was thrilled when Portishead returned with Third – their first new record of new material in 11 years. In the mid 90’s I really enjoyed their two albums (and associated b-sides) – 1994’s Dummy and 1997’s Portishead. Both of those records were moody soundtracks to a rainy day – different in feel at times, but both used the same sonic template. The press coined the term “trip-hop” and for better or worse, that label has stuck with Portishead (and to a lesser extent, Tricky) ever since. As the years passed it became clear that Portishead were in danger of becoming the hipsters version of Guns n Roses – would ANYTHING released ever live up to those wonderful early records? As it turns out, I needn’t have worried (although in defense of Guns n Roses I enjoyed Chinese Democracy more than anything Velvet Revolver put out). Beth Gibbons beautiful voice was in tact. Moody atmosphere – in tact. The beats…well, the beats were much harsher than the earlier years. This was no retro act – they were in the hear (as in LISTEN) and now. Third was a wonderful record and is now actually my favorite Portishead record.
In late 2009 Portishead released the non album track “Chase the Tear” for Human Rights Day to raise money for Amnesty International (it was also later released as a stand alone single). I’ve often thought this track was overlooked and / or didn’t receive enough press at the time. The song itself is a masterpiece – very much of the feel of the Third record (so much so that I just add it into the record on my mixes). The song begins with a slow electronic soundscape before building into a krautrock like groove. Beth Gibbons’ voice comes in, floating just below the synths. The beat is incessant while other noises and sound effects come into play. Her voice warbles (in her trademark style) conveying hurt and emotion like no other female singer can. Quite an evocative piece, with lyrics to match the tone. Key lyrics: “Winter sigh / Summer’s gone / Holding off tomorrow’s sorrow / Brushing out / Brushing in / Losing out / Losing thee / Didn’t take / My heart / Didn’t fold / Chase the tear / Never let go / Now I’m there / It’s over / It’s over”
Do yourself a favor and download this song (legally), add it to your Third playlist and enjoy. You won’t regret it (and say a little prayer that we don’t have to wait another 11 years for the next album)