No other group in recent music history has become so instilled in British culture that Bristol-based group – Massive Attack. They formed in the late eighties and plied their trade around the clubs of Bristol. With the arrival of a new EP ‘EUTOPIA’ this month featuring Young Fathers, Algiers, and Saul Williams. It may worth taking the time to examine why so many people have fallen in love with Massive Attack over the years.
The Bristol band’s music has been used on countless movies and television series giving them access to a whole new audience. This included Teardrop as the main theme of tv series House, Angel in Snatch, Dissolved Girl in the Matrix, and many more. You are bound to have heard a Massive Attack sound whilst out and about, sitting in a café, on the radio, or as you check out games at Aspers Casino. You’re certain to heard one of their tracks at some point.
They were a collection of D.J.s and musicians that came together to form a soundscape influenced by post-punk, hip-hop, electronica, dub reggae, and others. Massive Attack’s line-up includes core members Robert Del Naja a.k.a. 3D, Grant Marshall a.k.a. Daddy G, and Andrew Vowles a.k.a. Mushroom. They shaped their sound meticulously and released their first album “Blue Lines” in 1991 and followed up with “Protection” three years later in 1994. Both albums were met with great success and cemented them at the forefront of Bristol’s burgeoning trip-hop scene.
It wasn’t until the release of “Mezzanine” in 1998 that Massive Attack received huge success. The album is regarded as one of the best British albums of all time. The album was a major departure from the style of the previous two albums. “Mezzanine” took a darker tone which probably reflected the tone of the dynamics within the group at the time. Paul Evans from Rolling Stone magazine described the album as:
“Cool, sexy stuff, it smoothly fuses dub, club and soul, grounding its grace in sampled hip-hop beats.”
Massive Attack has always been known for their many collaborations down the years. The list is endless: Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn, Guy Garvey, Hope Sandoval, Horace Andy, Damon Albarn, Elizabeth Fraser, Sinead O’Connor, Martina Topley-Bird, and many others. Robert Del Naja described this need for collaboration in an interview for Wired magazine Back in March 2019.
“Each time you find the muse you see things in a new way,” Del Naja explains. “If you don’t keep changing that muse you end up doing things again and again – building comfortable routines where there’s no tension and everyone knows how to behave. When you get to that point of comfort there’s not a lot more to explore.”
The band’s real power lies in their ability to keep evolving, move with the times, and lack of fear when it comes to reinventing themselves. It’s these qualities that makes them impossible to pin down, classify, or describe their music. They don’t sound like any other artist or group, and no two albums sound the same.
Photograph by Platonova Alina
Originally publisher as Why we love the music of Massive Attack
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