assive Attack sparked the trendy "trip-hop" genre of music in 1991 with their revolutionary debut Blue Lines. In 1994, the year of the trip-hop explosion, Massive Attack showed they were still on top of things with Protection, even if they weren't always breaking new ground. But when 1998 rolled around, trip-hop wasn't the hip music anymore. Many a Portishead rip-off had surfaced in the time since Protection was released, and trip-hop had become derivative and watered down. It was steadily being replaced by jungle as the hip music for the coffeehouse set. Could Massive Attack remain relevant?
Well, not only did Massive Attack remain relevant, they created a stunning album on par with anything else they had done in the past. Mezzanine is a dark-edged opus that begs for the listener to dive in and become immersed. Sinister beats and menacing bass lines, along with live instruments evoke paranoia at every turn.
Make that almost every turn. A dreamy instrumental "Exchange" appears in two forms, and seems oddly out of place each time. And the Horace Andy-driven ballad "Man Next Door" doesn't quite mesh with me. Andy's tenor better suits Mezzanine's dark claustrophobia when it's reined in. However, every other track is dead on. "Angel" keeps Andy's vocals subtle, allowing for a dramatic juxtaposition with some edgy, noisy guitar. "Teardrop" features stark female vocals from Elizabeth Fraser. The song sounds almost hopeful, but combined with the growing menace of the music, Frazer's lyrics become less hopeful and more of a melancholy lament. "Inertia Creeps" revolves around a bass line with unrivaled intensity along with Massive Attack's excellent smoky monotone rapping. The title track has a dark groove all its own, with some Eastern-flavored noise thrown in for good measure.
Mezzanine proved that Massive Attack wasn't just relevant to trip-hop - they were relevant to music as a whole. Massive Attack did not resurrect trip-hop with Mezzanine. Instead, Massive Attack revealed themselves as more than just banner-wavers of a once-trendy musical genre. They were something more. They could fuse rock, hip-hop, and dub together into something that resembled little of the original parts, but something undeniably great.
Reviewed by: Gavin Mueller
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01