Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#15 Album Of 2010: Heligoland - Massive Attack


Massive Attack
Virgin Records.

Original SCQ Review

Released seven years to the day after 100th Window, Heligoland offered ten tracks, just under an hour’s worth of music, in response to years of false starts, rumoured recording sessions, band members cycling through the collective’s revolving door and tons of speculation in need of closure. Many critics who no doubt expected a triple record out of Heligoland in order to appease such an unforgiveable time-lapse found flaws to defend their disappointment. Some, like Pitchfork, reasoned that the record is too “gloomy” as if Mezzanine wasn’t intentionally leading somewhere, and most criticisms have read like empty posturing for a preemptive backlash.

There are real flaws here, although they offer more than they take away. Having been constructed over so many sessions and with an array of side-talents, Heligoland plays out like a compilation – or, a greatest hits - from Massive Attack’s lengthiest disappearing act to date. So although it’s a bit unsettling to hear Guy Garvey of Elbow croon over an experimental track and never return, his presence ultimately leaves a deeper mark on this material than had Robert Del Naja taken the reigns as he did with 100th Window.

For those like myself who hardly expected Massive Attack to return with anything this commanding, Heligoland felt like a lost record reemerging to shake our apathetic clock-tapping. Ten months since that February release, I recognize the novelty of a new Massive Attack album only bridged my will-this-suck hesitation toward full-blown admiration. Damon Albarn, who agreed to steer the recording back on track by famously saying – and yes, I paraphrase – “As long as you don’t pull me into one of your nine-year-long drug hazes”, does so much right over ‘Splitting the Atom’ and the emotional ‘Saturday Come Slow’, whereas ‘Atlas Air’ remains the most insidious beat 2010 produced. An undeclared success.

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