Listen to this as you read!
In 1998, Massive Attack released their third album “Mezzanine”. While I love its predecessor, “Protection”, I’m coming round to the view that “Mezzanine” is Massive Attack’s finest work. It’s a dark and foreboding album, full of sinister sounds and lyrics. A lot of the songs start sounding beautiful and ascend (or descend?) into harsh guitar workouts. There’s more rock than any other Massive Attack album, but again, the drums and bass are resounding and heavily based in hip hop and reggae. I’ve been listening to the album a lot in the last week or so, as I’ve been writing about the band for my musical journey book. And, as I’ve done so, more than I ever did when the album first came out, I’m realising what a magnificent album it is. Layer upon layer of sounds reveal themselves with each listen. It’s a completely gripping album, disconcerting in its intensity, engrossing in its fusion of musical genres.
At the heart of the music is a dub-wise reggae sound, and “Man Next Door” is the best example of that. It’s not the best known track on the album by any means, but I love the echoey bass, the hip hop drum beat and the roots reggae vocals of Massive Attack stalwart, Horace Andy.
Because I’ve been listening to the album on my iPod a lot, I’ve noticed the lyrics rather more than usual. Generally I just enjoy the vibe, pick up snippets, but don’t analyse too much. The greater scrutiny may not have been such a good thing for “Man Next Door”. It sounds like a classic conscious roots reggae song. Probably about Rastafari, or a call to arms, to fight injustice, or something. Actually, it’s a bit of a moan about a noisy neighbour! I kind of wish I hadn’t figured that. But it’s OK. It sounds too good to think too much about the words. If you know what I mean.
If you haven’t heard “Mezzanine” give it a go, and then another go. After a while you will be hooked. Massive Attack are one of the great fusion bands: reggae, hip hop, soul, jazz, rock, electronica. They called it trip hop in the nineties. Massive Attack are that and so much more.