Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Portishead

  • Dummy [Go! Discs/London, 1994] *
  • Portishead [Go! Beat, 1997] B-
  • Third [Mercury/Island, 2008] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dummy [Go! Discs/London, 1994]
Sade for androids ("Sour Times," "Wandering Star") *

Portishead [Go! Beat, 1997]
When you're this subtle, marginal differentiation is everything. Louder tracks, sparser samples, less insinuating tunes--all these changes are slight, but they impel antistar-to-die-for Beth Gibbons six inches toward stridency, and she's hard enough to take seriously when she's toning it down. The real and theoretical depressives who adore them will experience this as growth. Workaday music lovers will glance off Gibbons's shows of misery and never figure out why. B-

Third [Mercury/Island, 2008]
Beth Gibbons' solipsistic melodrama remains an indie meme as her guys corrode their electrodes toward something more outgoing ("We Carry On," "Machine Gun"). ***