Have You Heard? – (35) “Man Next Door” by Massive Attack

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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.

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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.

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About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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12 Responses to Have You Heard? – (35) “Man Next Door” by Massive Attack

  1. Listened to all of Man-Next-Door, and I loved it. Maybe it’s the times, or my crazy mind, but The Cars, The Police, Billy Idol and Brian Ferry all passed through me. Thanks John!

    • John S says:

      One of the great things about music is how we all hear different things when we listen. Glad you liked it. Try the whole album if you have time. It really is good!

  2. Osama Rahman says:

    I agree that it’s the best of their first 3 albums. Very heavy!

  3. Legoland says:

    Great to see Bristol’s finest given appropriate status, John. Just about my favourite band of the last twenty years.

    Mezzanine’s amazing, and I loved your reading of it. It’s a classic.

    Inertia Creeps is a particular favourite, with that wonderful tabla-like introduction, then the drums (again with an Asian feel), swirling guitar and Del Naja’s sinuous voice all combining beautifully. But the album’s full of joys, from the dreamy Exchange to the doomy title track, and the serene Teardrop, a song at once fragile and confident. And, of course, Angel…..I saw them in Brighton in the late nineties and they led the set with that. Surely one of the greatest bass riffs, ever?

    In the canon, it’s so difficult to say. I love Protection too, but Blue Lines has its masterful moments. Of the later stuff, I often find myself listening to Heligoland, where the guest singers (Garvey, Albarn, plus regulars Andy and Topley-Bird) really compliment the music superbly. Garvey’s Flat of the Blade is such a strange work – sinister, tender, passionate…..VERY Massive Attack. And then tracks like Rush Minute and Atlas Air, so brilliantly constructed – funky, jazzy, but with that signature Massive trippy feel too.

    Their genius lies in the fact that you never, ever, know what you’re going to get. But it’s always good.

    • John S says:

      Brilliant comment Jon. I’m beginning to get “Heligoland’ after writing it off initially. And I agree “Flat of the Blade” is one of those tracks you get into. The sound is not unlike Radiohead/ Atoms for Peace in recent times.

  4. Son of Legoland says:

    Sorry. That “compliment” above should of course be “complement”. Too much bong.

  5. DyingNote says:

    Oh, super! Hadn’t heard this till now.

    Different note – do you like Depeche Mode? If you do, you should check their latest, Delta Machine if you already haven’t

  6. Pingback: Acid Bunny | DyingNote

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