2008 was the year of patience being rewarded. Balding fans of guitar heavyweights AC/DC, Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses all saw their beloved bands release hugely underwhelming albums, a fact that lead fans of the latter to wonder, “what the fuck were you doing for the past fifteen years?” Bristol’s Portishead were guilty of the same tardiness, the difference being that they managed to not only avoid a stale re-hash of former glories, but also expand on a template that had seen a myriad of imitators in their absence. Being the oblique group of people they are, the band chose the industrial, nearly-unlistenable (but still amazing) ‘Machine Gun’ as the first single, a clever way of weeding out anyone expecting to pop Third on at a dinner party. Over the clattering, jackhammer melody sits the band’s true trump card, Beth Gibbon’s unsettling, elastic voice, an instrument so fragile it can feel intrusive just listening to it. Elsewhere, ‘The Rip’ is one of their best songs, transforming from a quiet, folksy intro into a Kraftwerk-esque electronic drone, Gibbon’s voice a thing of unimaginable beauty. Musically, Third acts as a new year zero, trying its hand at everything from prog to acoustic folk to psychedelica. It’s an abrasive, sometimes aggressive album that demands repeated listens, but once you’re hooked that’s it I’m afraid. Game Over.
Key track: ‘The Rip’