- by Florian Meissner Rating:10 Release Date:1998-04-20 Label: Virgin Records
If you were in Germany in 1998, there was no escaping Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. The lovely voice of the Cocteau Twins’s own Elizabeth Fraser, paired with the hauntingly beautiful beat, was everywhere. If you didn’t hear the original, you’d hear cover versions of it in adverts for anything from face creams to pension plans. The success of this one single gave you a glimpse of the importance this album would have in the coming years. Because with their third album, Mezzanine, Massive Attack redefined their sound, broke out of the omnipresent trip-hop craze, and redefined the rules. With Mezzanine, the trip-hop crew from Bristol shaped music far beyond the borders of their own genre.
Mezzanine was released on April 20, 1998 on Virgin Records, and was the band’s third album. It kicks off with one of Massive Attack’s rockiest songs to date, “Angel”. Distorted guitars added a new level to their music, and the overall beats became a lot darker compared to the two previous albums. This darkness was new to trip-hop, which was relaxed and laid-back, but never as dark and sinister as the Bristol duo made it sound right from the start on their third effort.
Throughout the album, 3D, Vowles, and Daddy G manage to keep a sense of urgency and drive in their listeners, instilled through prominent bass lines. However, funnily enough, none of the songs are particularly fast, and “Man Next Door”, for example, contradicts the driving qualities of drums and bass with the calm singing of Horace Andy, a Jamaican reggae and dub artist. “Man Next Door” is also the one cover song on the album, originally written by reggae singer John Holt for his band The Paragons. The exciting thing about this cover: unlike other artists from the genre who would collaborate with reggae artists, Massive Attack didn’t fall back into dub or reggae, but created a soundscape through The Cure-samples and slow, slow beats that created a never before heard juxtaposition with the happy, fast qualities of the original song.
Horace Andy comes back on the album on the last track, “(Exchange)”, which has almost soul-like qualities to it. With this track, Massive Attack managed to take the sense of urgency instilled into their listeners through the preceding 10 tracks, and turn it into a calm, relaxed mood.
Today, over 20 years after it’s initial release, Mezzanine is still one of the most important trip-hop albums of all time. It’s a staple in modern music, and “Teardrop” and “Angel” are songs you still can’t escape today. Just think of House (“Teardrop” was the opening track), Prison Break (also “Teardrop”), Snatch (“Angel”), or CSI: Miami (again “Teardrop”).
Sadly, Mezzanine marked the split with Vowles, who left Massive Attack due to creative differences.