Massive Attack | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Massive Attack 

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MASSIVE ATTACK

By concerning themselves with honest-to-goodness songwriting, trip-hop granddaddies Massive Attack may have lost some of the beat faithful, but the trade-off is a body of work that transcends club music's cycle of built-in obsolescence. On their third and latest album, Mezzanine (Virgin), they don't cover a lot of new ground, but they aren't running in place either. The rhythms still flow like molasses, the torpid bass still bottoms out in a cavern the size of the Grand Canyon, and the sleepy melodies still maintain an urbane elegance, but the accents have changed: without pandering to the pop audience, the trio has worked corrosive rock guitar into the fray, in both heavy washes of chords ("Dissolved Girl") and fragile arpeggios ("Man Next Door"). Massive Attack's guest vocals--provided in the past by Shara Nelson, Nicolette, Tricky, and Tracey Thorn--have always been a prime indicator that their aesthetic was too expansive to be contained in a nightclub, and that's true as ever on Mezzanine. Veteran reggae crooner Horace Andy has graced all Massive Attack's albums, and here he straddles the divide between deep soul and heavy-lidded ambience while the beats hydroplane beneath him. Former Cocteau Twins thrush Liz Fraser might seem an incongruous match, but her ethereal warble provides a nice balance to the weighty grooves she's paired with. It'll be interesting to see what Daddy Gee, Mushroom, and 3D have learned about showmanship in the last few years--when they last visited Chicago, with Andy and tabla player Talvin Singh in 1995, they were about as exciting onstage as rappers in wheelchairs. Lewis Parker, a Brit who ably but unremarkably acquits himself as both rapper and DJ on his recent Masquerades & Silhouettes (released on Massive Attack's Melankolic label), will open the show with a DJ set. Saturday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0450 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Hidekazu Shimizu.

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