Massive Attack - 100th Window 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 11 February 2003

100TH Window,
Virgin Records, 2002
| Performance 8 | Sound 8 |

Massive Attack is a rare outfit, in that it never separates real honest to goodness songs from its up-to-the-minute dance sounds. The new 100th Window album may not open up to as many new vistas as did its previous efforts, but it’s nevertheless a pleasing, if relatively subdued, project.

The architects behind Massive Attack music are Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidge, but MA’s special guest singers usually attract the most press attention to its projects. 100th Window continues this practice of showcasing admired vocalists, as Sinead O’Connor adds life to the otherwise overly clichéd lyrics of a positive thought piece called “What Your Soul Sings.” She is much better cast on the prayerful “A Prayer For England,” which ruminates on the current scandals within the Catholic Church, and also worries aloud about the dangerous time we live in – an era that is especially precarious for small children. O’Connor’s voice also suits “Special Cases,” because the vibration in her vocals synchs with the trembling bell sounds and woozy keyboard affects of the track.

Reggae star Horace Andy also makes a return appearance to the Massive Attack fold here on the ambient “Everywhen,” as well as on the nearly jazzy, piano-led “Name Taken.” “Name Taken” features the kind of melody you so often hear during a movie thriller, right before something really bad happens to somebody. Andy has one of those androgynous kinds of voices that can sound like the male rock of experience one minute, then a damsel in distress the next. One imagines that all of his experience with reggae dub makes him perfectly suited for Massive Attack’s complicated soundscapes.

In the past, Massive Attack has been musically outspoken about the debt it owes to classic soul music. A prime example of this is its cover of “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” from the Blue Lines album. While soul and R&B subtly run through most of what this British outfit does, one rarely finds any of the gospel-inspired joy and release so often powering even the most secular modern black music. If Leonard Cohen were black and a Brit, he might make music that sounds a lot like Massive Attack.

Listening to 100th Window by Massive Attack is a little like dancing at a dive called The End Of The World Dance Club, because these downers make music of (and for) mass destruction.

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