Never Heard of 'Em: Massive Attack
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Charles Mudede had a hand in assigning me this album, and he offered it with this admonition: "You know, one of the best songs of all time is on this album. See if you can figure out which one it is." Good lord, man. NO. The answer is likely NO. I was also told, when I admitted I didn't have the slightest clue what genre this was going to be, that it was "triphop." I didn't know what that was, either. "It's just British rap," was the response. What's the "trip" part? Everyone came up empty on that.
You know what this sound is not? Massive. Nor is it an attack. It's mostly British people talking over beats. I'd assumed you could rap fast in British English (we've all seen Lock, Stock and Snatch), but it turns out you can't. Or maybe fast-rapping is just too vulgar; they have to take sips of tea in between each verse. They really enunciate! I love the name Massive Attack, but it should be renamed Medium-Volume Rhythmic Speaking. It's like what you'd listen to if a warlock put a spell on you that required you to choose some form of hiphop to listen to during every moment of your life, for the rest of your life. When you wanted to go get a massage, you'd totally pick this. This is excellent nap rap.
There are two main themes of this album: monogamy and money. In fact, they rarely talk about anything other than love or money. (But that's not particularly limiting, now is it?) "One Love" goes like this: "Some men have one love, two and three love/Four and five and six love/But I believe in one love." (And some people just like counting.) "Be Thankful for What You've Got" is about exactly what it sounds like. Part of the lyrics to "Five Man Army" just goes "Money, money, money..."
In "Daydreaming," they say the word "vitamin" British-style (sorta rhymes with "Ritalin"), which practically makes me do a spit-take every time. Then they quote the gibberish in "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof. WIN! But my favorite track is "Blue Lines." The way the voice and beat match each other perfectly the whole way, with not one off moment, is exhilarating. And whoa, it tastes like the '90s. Bring me my black velvet choker and chunky heels! Was that the track Charles was talking about? "Noooo, no no no no," he said. The "best" one is one I didn't like—"Unfinished Sympathy." It's where they play symphonic strings but then also hit some glasses with spoons, and then Shara Nelson sings over it.
My only brag: I totally called that the typeface on the cover was Helvetica. Just sayin'.
I give this an "at least I know my fonts" out of 10.