May 2003

Nothing like a buncha jerks sitting on a couch, listening a record and shooting the shit about music. In this case, the most recent album by Massive Attack, 100th Window.

on the couch, from left to right:
Caerie Alles, Michael Bill, D Porter, C Reider, Todd Skaggs, Ian C Stewart, Alex Temple

C Reider: I was deep, deep into Protection and Mezzanine when they came out. It was like they filled out this huge musical gap for me. I have no other way of explaining it. They eased me into the enjoyment of dance music and modern hiphop, which I'd been pretty offish about until then. Plus, the shit was just LUSH. Damn. My first impression listening to 100th Window was that it’s not going to have the emotional impact that the earlier ones had. This album isn't what I need in my life right now.

Ian C Stewart: What does that mean?

C Reider: I don't know if it's because I've moved on personally, or if their whole musical approach has been watered down by the scads of second rate triphop bands that blossomed in the wake of the Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky popularity of a few years back.

Ian C Stewart: You mean Sneaker Pimps, don't you.

C Reider: Supreme Buttholes of Leisure, Laika, and all them bastards. And, it's like, where's the hiphop? 3D doesn't even approach a rap in this one. Also, the production sounds somehow thin and doesn't grab my attention. I think they need to trim every song way down. The first song would rock if it ended before that whole pointless instrumental vamp at the end. Yawwrn. I'm befuddled about why they feel the need to rock the beat for seven minutes on every track.

Ian C Stewart: Dude, it's their atmosphere. Do you like any of 100th Window yet?

C Reider: The highlight for me so far is "Name Taken." I love Horace Andy's voice, especially in the context of a Massive Attack album. Ian once called that guy "kind of a weed".

Ian C Stewart: Horace Andy IS a weed. I can't listen to that guy. The great C Reider once said he couldn't listen to Depeche Mode because "Martin Gore sings like Aaron Neville," and I would put Horace Andy on the same list. That overly-warbly, castrati singing style that was last popular, well, never.

C Reider: OK, shameful admission time. I think it's kinda nice to hear Sinead O'Connor again.

Ian C Stewart: That IS shameful!

C Reider: I was big into her first album. I remember seeing her in concert before she became a household name. It was in Denver, at the Rainbow, which is no longer in business. Some unknown rap artist opened for her. Some guy from the band Japan was in the band.

Ian C Stewart: Akira Takasaki? I mean Masami Tsuchiya?

C Reider: Yeah, OK, I don't know. He was the guitar player, and I think he was fucking her at the time or something like that. I guess I'm not the Japan historian or anything, so I dunno. The audience was a bunch of fucking weirdos. Damn, that must've been 1988. I'm an old fuck, y'all. Then I saw her a few years later at Red Rocks after she fucking exploded, and all these cleancut college kids filled the entire stadium, like the Boys from Brazil or something. I remember being asked "got any drugs, man?" about twenty times 'cause I was the weirdest looking guy there.

Ian C Stewart: And because of all the drugs you were selling.

C Reider: Dude, I made SO MUCH BANK. You're trying to get me off topic aren't you? Where was I? Sinbad O'Cotter? So, fame didn't take to her real well. I mean, if you got famous would you become a lesbian catholic priest and tear up photos of the Pope?

Ian C Stewart: I think you should be asking Michael Bill this question.

Todd Skaggs: Michael Bill, are you thinking of becoming a lesbian priest and tearing up glossies of the pope on national television?

C Reider: I mean aside from on national television. I use pictures of the pope as kindling every winter. And what about that whole National Anthem thing? Oh wait, that was Roseanne Barr. Nevermind. Unfortunately, Skinhead's contributions on 100th Window are pretty weak in my book. She sounds like she's afraid she's going to break the microphone if she sings any harder. Weird. What about you, MCB?

Michael Bill: Well, first, let me say that I never listened to Massive Asscrack before yesterday. Now that I've heard 100th Window, I may have some answers as to why.

Ian C Stewart: Uh oh.

Michael Bill: After about fifteen minutes of quietly sitting on this damned couch with the CD playing, I found myself waiting. Listening intently for something to happen that would remotely catch my attention. Eventually, I heard it. In short spurts, here and there. But just when something interesting started to happen, it almost immediately lost it and went someplace where even rotted corpses would stand up and throw a hissy fit.

Ian C Stewart: God damn, dude.

Michael Bill: So instead of concentrating on the negative aspects of this album…

Ian C Stewart: Uh oh.

Michael Bill: I would like to try and turn it around into something positive. So here are two potential uses for this music in everyday life:

1. Use it as a soundtrack to a midget-nun-fucking-lesbian-cum-lovin'-backdoor-twat-tweakin porn film while I spank my hooker ex-wife's bare ass with a rotten carrot and force her to dump a vial of liquid acid onto the open sores on my ball sac.

2. Play it for old high school friends who don't know anything about music. Tell them it's the new Guns N Roses album and say "You go Buckethead, it's your birthday."

Ian C Stewart: Well spoken. Especially the part about the ball sac.

Michael Bill: So yes, the album may be a bit on the boring side, but at least there is hope for me. According you guys, Massive Attack's previous albums are much better.

Ian C Stewart: Much.

Michael Bill: So I will patiently await the day in which I can revisit Massive Attack and avoid the two aforementioned scenarios. I'm sure my ex-wife can't wait for that day either.

Todd Skaggs: Whats funny is, on, for the new Nick Cave album, it does that bullshit "people who bought this also bought" thing, and 100th Window was at the top of the list. I can't remember ever having heard Mezzanine. I couldn't tell you who was ever in the band at any point in their history. But I do remember Protection. So I was excited to listen to 100th Window. I got it, listened to it a bit at work and then went out to get it on vinyl.

Ian C Stewart: Why did you do that? Was Schnozz having a sale?

Todd Skaggs: Why? Mostly just to say I had it on vinyl. The record is completely different at 33RPM, which I found out quite by accident.

Ian C Stewart: Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa ha ha. I'm laughing near you, not at you. Bah ha ha ha ha ha haaaa.

Todd Skaggs: The album packaging is so very minimal, and nowhere does it say at what speed to play the album. So, silly me, it being an album, I thought I'd roll with it at 33RPM.

Ian C Stewart: That's right, blame the minimal packaging. Bah ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaa.

Todd Skaggs: Kicking it up to 45RPM gets it to the “correct” speed, but I have to be honest, I prefer it at 33. I listened to about twenty seconds of it at the right speed and decided to kick it back down to the slow speed.

C Reider: But Todd, if you slow it down, that makes it last longer! Have you tried it at 78?

Todd Skaggs: I know it makes it longer - but then Sinead doesn't sound like Sinead! I can tolerate her, but she just sounds cooler slowed down. The music gathers more ethereal overtones at that speed. And I have to say that I am very impressed by the fact that the production value doesn't lose anything by being slowed down. If anything, it helps it, especially with Sinead. I've never been a big fan of hers and when I found out she was singing on the album, I almost didn't buy it. But at 33, the song "What Your Soul Sings" goes from whiney-tart singing to a slow, soulful vibe. Etta James meets Hooverphonic. The dude - I forget his name...?

Ian C Stewart: 3D is his name, 3D is his game.

Todd Skaggs: 3D. His voice sounds like Nat King Cole on Valium. I've listened to the digital version - at the correct speed - all the way through and was just kinda so-so about it. Not for any particular reason, but there were just things about it that made me think something else was eventually going to happen. But it didn't. So, I'm going to ditch the CD and continue to listen to the LP very slowly. Sure, it's going to take longer, and I'm going to have to get up five times to flip the discs. The sombitch came on 3 LPs. I don't know why they didn't just press it at 33 anyway. Three records with two songs per side - what were they thinking?

C Reider: Well, for one, you get higher fidelity with faster speed, less surface noise. It's just like tape that way.

Alex Temple: On the other hand, I like the idea of slowing it even more down. Sort of a "like cures like" strategy.

C Reider: Actually, I think the two songs per side deal is pretty cool, it's like three twelve inch singles rather than an album.

Todd Skaggs: Hm. Yeah, that is actually pretty cool. The double gatefold packaging is very cool too, there's no print on the labels. Just imprints of the song titles.

C Reider: Oooh. Minimalism is the new maximalism.

Todd Skaggs: And to be honest, I guess the act of getting up and switching the platters helps keep it all in perspective. Sometimes I think records need the flip time so you don't go right into the next song. It's set up in such a way that at certain points, you have to let things digest during the time it takes you to flip sides or change from one record to the next. And it especially helps with this album. Bowie’s Heathen, was like that too. It's almost like the time to flip the platter was imperative. That gets lost on CDs. Plus, the vinyl sounds warmer than the CD. Now that I think about it, I've figured out what everyone's missing: these little vinyl clicks. They add an ambience that's absent on the digitally pure cuts. Say what you will but there are times they actually help a song.

Alex Temple: Hey, I totally agree. Why do you think I add it into my own digitally-produced music?

Todd Skaggs: Word to that. That's also the reason I'm such a baby about giving up my four track. There's part of me that still loves the tape hiss.

C Reider: Okay, you're insane.

Ian C Stewart: Most of the standalone digital multitrack studios I've seen have a vinyl crackle effect you can infect everything with. It's actually kind of fucking cheesy. It would be better to sample an actual album playing, I think. Or, better still, just press the shit onto vinyl. Can't get much more lifelike than that.

Alex Temple: I don't see why it matters how you get the effect as long as it sounds all right. Anyway, I did something like fifteen times that hardcore: I used a program designed for system six, and it was so bad it introduced crackle out of nowhere! So I sampled that.

Ian C Stewart: System six? Is that from Star Trek? I don't..

C Reider: Mac, you dumbass. Mac OS 6. So, Alex... you don't go in for vinyl?

Alex Temple: I'll start listening to vinyl once someone designs a record player as portable as my Discman.

Todd Skaggs: Ask and ye shall receive. That thing is probably about as heavy as the first portable compact disc player too.

C Reider: You know the stuff they say about vinyl sounding better? It's actually kinda true, although it depends on the album. My Abbey Road vinyl has a skippy part that really bugs me, but the difference in sound between it and the CD, even coming from a shitty stereo, is intense. Vinyl is wonderful, and perfectly suits some releases. That Asmus Tietchens triple LP that I have such a hard-on about would make absolutely no sense whatever in any other format.

Todd Skaggs: One of the main reason that vinyl from before the late 1980s sounds better than the CDs is that albums were actually mastered with the turntable in mind. Everything was tweaked to produce the best sound. When shit was taken from analog sources and cut to CD, it flatlined so much of the response and so much shit got lost in the mix, it was pathetic. I have a Half Speed Master of Boston's first album that I play for friends and then play the CD. The difference is beyond noticeable.

Ian C Stewart: No friend of mine would ever try to play Boston anywhere near me. You, sir, are an ass. This conversation is over.

Todd Skaggs: I find that even the newer stuff I've purchased on vinyl, I tend to like it better. The convenience of CDs is nice, I suppose, although the albums outweigh the CDs in my house by about three to one. The intimacy of albums is irreplaceable.

Alex Temple: Except for albums that have clearly been mastered badly for CD release - certain early 70s proggy sorts of things, like Gentle Giant's Three Friends and Soft Machine's Third - I honestly can't tell the difference. I'm sure I could if I listened to them in succession, but if I can listen to a CD and get really into it, I don't really care if vinyl's a little bit better.

Ian C Stewart: Dude, I'll rock an Edison Cylinder if I like what's on it. I might have to run to the Evolution Control Committee's headquarters to do it, but -

C Reider: No doubt. I may be the only person in the world still buying cassettes, but there's so much good shit still out there that isn't available in any other format. The medium is not the message.

Todd Skaggs: What do you think of 100th Window, Alex?

Alex Temple: Okay, first of all, it's TOO LONG. I got into rock through my dad's records, so maybe I have an unhealthy dependence on the LP-length album, but seeing how I was bored well before the 45-minute mark, I think there's something else going on here, too: pretty much every song is long, thick-textured, harmonically static and minimally melodic, and I just can't take an hour of that.

Ian C Stewart: That's your way of saying you agree that Horace Andy is a castrati, right?

C Reider: OK, now you've gone TOO FAR. I challenge you to a duel.

Alex Temple: Do we need to separate you two? Now, there are some standout tracks. I like "Future Proof," which has a bit more drive and a bit more variety, and I really like "Small Time Shot Away." The fact that the thick textures don't enter until about five and a half minutes into that song makes it far more satisfying. The major-minor ambiguity and beautiful high-register synths make it sound almost like a slowcore song. Actually, I wish that they would peel away the triphoppy layers and get in touch with their inner slowcore band. Pure indie-snob fantasy, I know.

Ian C Stewart: Massive Attack goes Red House Painters? I doubt that very seriously.

Alex Temple: Aside from the angular "Antistar," they don't really have what it takes to make triphop interesting to me. Their atmospherics are far too often more cloyingly neutral than spooky, there are no aggressive sections à la Tricky to juxtapose against the quiet bits, and they're nowhere near that neo-nightclub-goth vibe that Portishead taps into every now and then. Admittedly, I'm not much of a triphop fan to begin with, but I attribute that more to ignorance than distaste for the genre, and I can see these guys producing something quite a bit more interesting than this.

C Reider: On the contrary, I think they should go back and bring more hiphop into it. That's what brought the life into their earlier records, they hopped. This one is too self-consciously precious for its own good.

Alex Temple: You could be right about it needing more hiphop. I'd have to hear their earlier stuff to say for sure. I could certainly picture a rap injection giving this stuff the drive it needs. Actually, I did hear Mezzanine one time, but it was years ago and I was nowhere near the right frame of mind, and I don't remember it at all.

Ian C Stewart: Why, were you a crack whore?

C Reider: I totally vouch for Protection and Mezzanine, except for the last song on Protection which is a Doors cover, "Light my Fire," done as some sort of minimal hiphop thing and it is hideous. The dub album No Protection is kinda neat in its own way. Blue Lines is total bullshit.

Ian C Stewart: Blue Lines was their first album, and it’s different from their other things. I remember when it came out, I personally expected it to be like Soul II Soul because I was aware of the Bristol connection of Jazzy B, Neneh Cherry etc and I was bitterly disappointed by it. I had a promo and it was just totally not what I was hoping for, which would’ve been an hour of "Jazzy's Groove." There, I said it. It wouldn't be something I'd listen to actively if I were hearing it for the first time right now, but as a piece of fucking take-me-back-to-1992, it can't be beat. What were we talking about again?

Alex Temple: I think they need to ditch Sinead O'Connor. Her singing is wretched, especially on the embarrassing "A Prayer for England."

C Reider: Word to that business, that song sucks. "A Prayer for England" is terrible. It's everything I didn't like about Sinead ruining a Massive Attack song. Which layer of hell does that commit her to?

Ian C Stewart: The one with peanuts and nougat?

C Reider: MMmmm. Moist nougat! She definitely wouldn't have been my first pick for this year's Massive Nutsack girl anyway. That would have been -

Ian C Stewart: Lita Ford.

C Reider: Lita Ford reminds me of my mom. Ew. No you backwards fool, Tanita Tikaram.

Ian C Stewart: Tanita Tikaram? Are you high!? She hasn't made a good record since 1804! But of course, neither has Skinhead O'Connor, whose presence on 100th Window is about as welcome to me as one of Todd's White Castle farts.

Todd Skaggs: (wordlessly scoots closer to Ian)

C Reider: No, no are YOU high? Tanita Tikaram NEVER made a good album. She's just got a supah fine voice is all. I'd love to hear it applied towards some Massive Attack.

Ian C Stewart: "A Twist In My Sobriety" showed promise - that was eventually fulfilled by Fiona Apple, some 331 years later - but she lost the plot before she even knew there was one, I think. I agree that Tanita Tikaram has a kick-ass voice, though.

C Reider: Yeah, the first one is the only album I had of hers. I like "He Likes The Sun." Someone should definitely hire her to do a vocal on a decent song. Maybe that someone should be ME!

Ian C Stewart: I thought you were going to suggest yourself to be their singer. I'm confused now. Leave me alone.

C Reider: Who would you like to see singing on the next Massive Attack album? Assuming it's better than this one.

Ian C Stewart: Fiona Apple. Or Debbie Gibson. Sorry, Deborah Gibson.

C Reider: David Sylvian's too obvious of a choice, but Will Oldham would be pretty fuckin ON, I think. Maybe someone totally fucking wrong, like Tom Araya? Ogre?

Alex Temple: Continuing the indie-snob theme, how about Khaela Maricich, or Caitlin Brice from Alsace Lorraine?

Ian C Stewart: Bless you. Cover your mouth next time.

Alex Temple: Or how about, say, Björk? That would fucking rule. Bits of the album kind of reminded me of Post anyway. Dear god, I'd love to hear a trip-hop Kukl.

Ian C Stewart: Dude, that Tricky - Nearly God thing. That's as near as that'll ever get. She was on that. Apparently.

C Reider: Yeah, sure, as long as we're talking about early Björk, like Sugarcubes, Kukl Björk.Vespertine Björk might not be so hot.

Ian C Stewart: She might try to bite you.

Alex Temple: I haven't heard Vespertine. I think that's the one that my dad got randomly and said was awful.

C Reider: Which bits reminded you of Post?

Alex Temple: "What Your Soul Sings" with a singer switch of course. Do I hear a harp in there? That could be Zeena Parkins, right? Right?

Ian C Stewart: Sure. What?

Alex Temple: Plus it's got that busy-beat-under-thick-dark-atmospheric-haze thing in common with Post, as does much of the album. I also hear a vague affinity between "Antistar" and "Army of Me."

D Porter: Assuming they fixed the music first, I'd love to hear Massive Attack with Jarboe from Swans. It'd be interesting to hear her use her good voice over some of their music. As opposed to her bad, Cher-like voice.

C Reider: Jarboe would rock it, especially if she screamed a lot. I don't like that wide vibrato voice she does sometimes, I guess that's what you mean by Cher-voice. Did you see that misprint in Wire magazine about Michael Gira sniffing Cher's armpits? Hilarious.

Ian C Stewart: Dude, why can’t he just get some Botox like everybody else his age? Jarboe could yell "fuuucking! Destruction!!!! Fucking!!!! Destruuuuuuctiooooooooon - RRRRRR, RRRRRR -RRR -R RRRRRRR."

C Reider: Now I got a bowoner! Let's shut up about Jarboe now.

Alex Temple: In the "totally fucking wrong" category, I nominate KOMPRESSOR.

D Porter: Martina from those early Tricky records. I can't remember her full name, if she even bothers to have one. She's got the sexy-breathy thing down to a science.

C Reider: Martina Topley-Bird. she's got a nice voice, but that's cheating, 'cause of the Tricky connection. I'd guess there's probably some sort of residual bad-blood there.

Ian C Stewart: Yeah, Martina. Did you see them on Sessions At West 52nd or whatever it's called? It was cool. Tricky already sounds like Massive Attack, so I don't know how much more a part of it she could be. So I'll have to nominate C Reider as the next Massive Attack vocalist. That's only if Michael Bill is busy, because this guy can vocode obscenities like nobody's business.

C Reider: I smell a duet!

Ian C Stewart: No, I think that was Todd again with those White Castles.

D Porter: Marianne Faithful - If I have to explain this, you're far too young for me to bother talking to, anyway.

Ian C Stewart: You guys are obsessed with age, what's the deal? I'm over 853 years old and you don't see me moaning about it.

C Reider: Dude, you're older than Mortiis!

Todd Skaggs: How about Ute Lemper? Or Leonard Cohen, maybe? He could add some weird, aged, philospher, poet, scratchy "walked the earth on his face" kind of tone to it.

Ian C Stewart: Ute is a good name for a dog.

Todd Skaggs: On the hiphop side of it, I'd like to see De La Soul pop in in for some guest vocals.

D Porter: Ice Cube! A younger 'Cube, closer to his first two albums than the boring Hollywoood corruption he is today. A good producer with a gun would be able, I think, to coax something other than the sadly-usual "bling bling" bullshit out of him.

Ian C Stewart: Ice Cube with Massive Attack would be some weird shit, that's for real.

C Reider: I think those two guys from Kings Of Convenience would be great. Or Sade. That would rock, if it was a really good song. Shit would put you to sleep like Nyquil. Or cyanide.

Ian C Stewart: Were you using cyanide as a sleep aid again? Crack is wack, fool!

Caerie Alles: I might be the giantest nerd of all, but I say Laurie Anderson. So there!

Ian C Stewart: Nerd.

Caerie Alles: And while I'm being a major dork, I think David Bowie would be good on a song. One only. And how about Lida Husik? And Lisa Gerrard?

C Reider: I'm game for all of those. I had thought of mentioning Lida Husik, but pussied out at the last minute.

Ian C Stewart: You puss. Lida would be been cool. But I don't know, after Massive Attack did that song with Madonna, I kinda quit thinking about them in realistic terms, vocalist-wise. And for them to even attempt to put Sinead in the same musical category as Liz Fraser is absurd. But since Massive Attack is down to one guy now, there's no one around to say "dude, Shithead-O ain't cuttin' it. Not for the whole album anyway. Let's get Liz Fraser back, pronto."

Now get your funky behinds offa my couch!

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