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  100th Window  
  Massive Attack  
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It's sad to admit that a continually innovative band has just released a so-so album. One would hope that a band capable of brilliance would either push forward beyond anything they've accomplished before, or falter in its experimentation and fail completely. But on 100th Window, it seems as if that risk was not even taken, and therefore neither utter brilliance nor complete suckiness was an option. What we're left with instead is a handful of songs that almost mirrors their 1998 success Mezzanine.

I still remember discovering Massive Attack back then, when Mezzanine just came out, and before every hip & trendy incense filled alternative sparkles & whips tattoo parlor and vinyl touting wannabe store played it (and Portishead, for some as yet unknown reason) in the background. I remember being pulled in by Elizabeth Fraser's (of the Cocteau Twins) seductive vocals, the bass lines rippling beneath, the menace bubbling in the mix. If the tunes were well-written, then the production was even better, perhaps some of the best produced songs ever. Bringing out each element of these dense effects laden songs in such a clear manner was like looking through the center of the song, as if it were made of glass, and when you looked down from your boat, you saw not your reflection but the riverbed lined with grass waving, the schools of fish swimming all in one rush of a direction, and your shadow over them. And you wonder, is that really my shadow?

Massive Attack took nearly 4 years to complete Mezzanine, 3 years to complete Protection before that, and God knows how long for Blue Lines (their first album, featuring the amazing Safe From Harm). And, though that's a long time between each album, the quality between albums, the leap ahead that's apparent in each new release called for it. There is no such excuse for the 5 years between Mezzanine and 100th Window.

Not that the album isn't extremely listenable and enjoyable. It is. With Sinead O'Connor on vocals on some of the songs, the same addictive bassline, and impeccable production (listen to it on headphones, oh God!), this album isn't bad. The songs could be better. The first two songs (Future Proof and
What Your Soul Sings)are pretty damn good. But from then on, they mostly just blend together. Which isn't to say they are bad songs, just so-so songs. And the last, untitled song on the album only makes me think of a Nine Inch Nails song, and you know how painful that memory can be.

When it comes down to it, this album is like a re-hashed Mezzanine, which is frankly, a pity. Every moment on it is trumped by its predecessor. Every good quality is not really a surprise. I'm not one of those music snobs who thinks that every release must be cutting edge (how trite!), but sometimes that's just what you expect from a band like Massive Attack. Especially since listening to this album doesn't give me anything more or different than their last offering. Here's hoping they won't deliver a re-hash of 100th Window in five years.

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