Review #241: Blue Lines, Massive Attack
Massive Attack has cool fans like Chuck Palahnuik, so I knew I was going to struggle with this one, but I went in with zero expectations about what it would sound like. What I got was a cross between the Gorillaz and Evanescence.
Singer Shara Nelson is the dreamy diva singing, with Daddy G, 3D, and Mushroom and Tricky backing her up. They are all distinctly British, and the best tracks (i.e. “Five Man Army”) show off their accents. Let me be frank: Nelson is the best part of this album, with an ethereal voice that is constantly undercut by these weirdo rap interjections. Take “Safe From Harm,” the title track, where she longingly sighs: You can free the world, you can free my mind/Just as long as my baby’s safe from harm tonight. 3D quietly adds: I was lookin’ back to see if you were lookin’ back at me/To see me lookin’ back at you.
Come on. That’s funny. It’s like that episode of Skins where the teen boys rap in the living room.
The standout track “Unfinished Sympathy” was Nelson’s brainchild with a magnetic music video. A full orchestral score backs up her breathtaking improvisation. At least one review I found called it “earth-shattering,” which I found incredible because I’d never even heard this song, before I remembered that England exists.. The penultimate track “Lately” also stars Nelson, accompanied by an anxious backbeat. The last news I found about Nelson had to do with a restraining order taken out against her in 2011.
At the same time, songs like “Daydreaming” made me laugh. I couldn’t help it! Why does Nelson sound like Madonna on Ray of Light? Did he say Yes, Daddy? Is that a Beatles reference or a Fiddler on the Roof one? What is going on???
That said, “Hymn Of The Big Wheel,” which doesn’t include Nelson, surprised me. At first I thought it was maybe a gooier Trans Europe Express, but it truly evolves into something lovely and strange by the end, complete with distant screams.
Song that Isn’t a Cover But Could Be: “One Love” could be mistaken for a cover from another famous UK album.