February 27, 2003

Never Pass an Open Window

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Well, they have always taken long. Five years after 1998’s critically acclaimed Mezzanine, the follow-up was surrounded by expectations of life-threatening proportions. Finding themselves in a similar predicament after OK Computer, Radiohead, for example, responded with Kid A, prompting a hurricane of loud, yet often insincere, praise. Those who have already suspected reasoning by analogy may now draw a breath. No, Massive Attack have not resorted to inventing 23rd century music as a way of making an artistic statement — if for no other reason than that they have been doing it all along — since their debut, 1991’s Blue Lines. On the contrary, 100th Window is an apt and logical successor to Mezzanine, whose dark, sinister mood it duly inherits. Now, however, it seems like what Mezzanine has sown on Earth might as well grow on Pluto — so bleak and barren 100th Window feels — away from the Sun, life, and limelight.

Five years is a long time, and on 100th Window, Massive Attack has shrunk to one founding member, Robert “3D” Del Naja, for whom 100th Window is basically a solo record. Perhaps for this reason, there is a sense of uniformity and cohesion that lacked — not to their detriment, one must add — on other Massive Attack records. An obligatory female contribution is done this time by none other than Sin