There he is again, my personal favourite music geek out there - Mister Czarnecki aka Pan Di-Dziej with another one of his reviews. So glad we're making it a regular thing here Piotrek. Gr8 2 have u on board.
Massive Attack - "Heligoland"
I was really looking forward to listening to this album. And I really was looking forward to liking it. After seven years of waiting (forget that “Unleashed” soundtrack nonsense) and releasing a very promising EP last year, Massive Attack had eyes and ears of the world on them. The build-up and expectations were huge. With Grand Marshall, aka Daddy G, back on board, after 12 years of creative absence, and a showcase full of better or less known friends, producer and composer, Robert Del Naja (3D) was trying to recapture the atmosphere that once could creep the hell out of the listeners. Unfortunately he fails in most of the attempts. Promising moments of bliss can be found here and there, but in overall “Heligoland” lacks the consistency of the previous efforts.
Album begins with “Pray for rain”, a dark, slow burning, tribal tune, which is illogically broken by a light, poppy interlude in the middle. Tunde Abebimpe from Brooklyn based alternative choir/collective TV On A Radio provides vocals on this one. Funny enough, the next track “Babel”, with a guest appearance by Tricky's one-time muse, Martina Topley-Bird, sounds like something you'd normally find on an album by Abedimpe's band. But this soulful, wobbly bass fueled, electronic-indie rock crossover, makes you wonder, if you're listening to the right band. Topley-Bird gets another spot, fronting “Psyche”. Hypnotic “Girl, I love you” with reggae legend and Attack's longtime collaborator Horace Andy, sounds like a lost track from “Mezzanine”. Great, classic Massive Attack track with big, off sounding horns that, unfortunately, break the intimacy of the whole song. Both 3D fronted songs, “Rush minute” and “Atlas Air”, could be easily mistaken for tracks from his solo produced “100th Window”. The centerpiece of the record comes in form of “Splitting the atom” - the best thing you'll find on “Heligoland”. Massive Attack's signature blend of retro and futuristic sound, that manages to be spacious and claustrophobic at the same time, is delivered in style here. A huge bassline and a creepy choir chanting in the background together with a lush organ and glitchy beat create a perfectly haunted environment for this paranoid tune. All Massive's duty singers add a layer of their vocals here. Horace Andy's vibrating croon, Daddy G's gravely deep voice and 3D's digital lullaby come together in perfect harmony. A true gem. On the flipside, we've got too many pointless efforts, like i.e. "Flat of the blade". Elbow's Guy Harvey's half-sung, half-spoken nasal delivery over cacophonous, totally random sounding background makes you want to skip forward before the song kicks in. “Paradise Circus”, chosen to promote the album and fronted by Hope Sandoval, brings another slice of boredom. And Damon Albarn of Blur gets shoved again into our ears uninvited in “Sunday come slow”, another dull, primitive track.
It seems like Massive Attack are not a collective anymore. They surely do not sound like one. Of course all of their previous albums featured guest vocalists, but they managed to fit perfectly into musical canvas of the whole. This time I get the feeling that it's more about the big names, rather than songs. Apart from “Splitting the atom”, there's one more thing worth praising, the artwork. Full of political symbolism and inspired by the street art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, was created by 3D himself. Nonetheless “Heligoland” sounds like a half finished record to me.
With one half of the disc of barely listenable tracks, one true gem, and the rest sounding like bastard offspring of previous albums, Heligoland is a prefect guide to how to kill your own legend. Maybe it's the lack of creativity or maybe Massive Attack's main man was too busy being involved in politics, antiwar campaigning and other people's projects. Too busy to notice that his band's monopoly for creating the soundtrack for urban paranoia of digital times had been challenged by someone else. His name is Burial.