Portishead - Machine Gun

Helen Newbery 05/05/2008

Rating: 5/5

This is the first single to be taken from the simply titled album 'Third'. It begins as it means to go on, with an unrelenting drumbeat that calls to mind the machine gun of the title. Before long the distinctive voice of Beth Gibbons kicks in, ethereal and yet clear as day. The vocals are alienating, but at the same time somehow captivating: 'if only I could see / you turn yourself to me / and recognise the poison in my heart'. The song is relentless, and seemingly uniform on first listen, but closer inspection reveals subtle shifts of gear: a keychange here, a minor addition there. At one point that bassline seems nigh on unendurable, and it is almost a relief as the original reasserts itself. Towards the end of the song, the keyboards become the focus, but then everything just stops, leaving a feeling of emptiness that can only be assuaged by hitting play again. A masterpiece.

Release Date: 14.04.08