Artist Spotlight: Massive Attack

Artist Spotlight courtesy of Diabetes Man

It was bit of a blur the week my grandpa died and he had his funeral. Husband and a father to 9 kids he had lived through the death of his parents at the age of 13, the Great Depression, taking care of all his siblings, the Korean War, and had beaten an addiction to alcohol. He was my father’s father and with my mom’s father being an abusive mean spirited man, he was practically my only grandfather. Needless to say, with him gone I was down in the dumps. Two weeks later, my friends decided to cheer me up by taking me to go see Iron Man and get pizza. It helped a lot. After the movie I hugged my friends, got into my car ,and was on my way back home. It was one of those classic humid nights in Kentucky. The kind where you can smell the dampness in the air of the incoming rain. With the night lights of the city guiding me and the rain illuminating through the windows, I felt a sense of calm. Then a song came on the radio, a song I never heard of. I started to cry.

They were happy tears. “Love, love is a verb……………..Teardrop on the fire, fearless on my breath”. Every memory of my grandpa was coming. Every laugh, lesson, and time we spent together. The radio DJ said, “that was Massive Attack with Teardrop”. I knew as soon as I got home I was going to find everything I could about this band. That was 8 years ago, and today they are now one of my favorite bands.

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Massive Attack are an English trip hop group with Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall with former member Andy “Mushrooms” Vowles (leaving in 1999). The group was formed when DJs Vowles and Daddy G met graffiti artist/rapper 3D Del Naja as part of the popular Bristol club scene group The Wild Bunch. This spin-off group released an independent song called “Any Love” which gain them enough attention to sign on to Circa Records, which they are still with today.

With being signed on to Circa, they released the album Blue Lines with the song “Unfinished Sympathy” reaching number 13 on the UK’s top 100 single chart.

The album received excellent reviews with NME calling it “”the sleekest, deadliest, most urbane, most confounding LP 1991 has yet seen”. The praise they received for the album would later be the trademark and style for their sound. A sampling using the down tempo of hip-hop, soul, reggae, and electronic both musically and lyrically.

This album surprisingly was one of the last ones I listened to but it no less had everything I loved about them. It’s funny cause I listened to it after the first season of True Detective and every song sounded like something that would be used in the title opening sequence for a True Detective style opening. Hell most of their stuff sounds like that.

1994 saw the release of the album Protection which also received great reviews. It wasn’t until the album Mezzanine was released in 1998 would the group receive the critical and commercial success they deserve. The entire album was released legally on their website before the actual physical release for download, one of the first artists to do so. The album topped the charts in United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Rolling Stone even listed it 412th on their 500 Greatest Albums of all time. The song “Teardrop” was its most successful reaching number 10 on the charts and becoming the opening theme for the FOX show House. Other songs included on the album included: Risingson, Inertia Creeps, Dissolved Girl, Man Next Door, Black Milk, Mezzanine, Group Four, and Angel.

Even with all the success and touring of the group, there was now fighting among the group (cue Behind the Music dramatic music). Mushroom was having issues with the constant touring, the increase domineering role of Del Naja, and was unhappy with the direction of the group. Mushroom left the group in 1999. Del Naja and Marshall split up to focus on other side projects.

In 2007, rumors began to swirl that Marhsall and Del Naja would be getting back together in the studio to work on a new album. Both Del Naja and Marshall had worked with Damon Albarn in his studios with writing and composing songs for the soundtracks to Push and 44 Inch Chest. Those rumors in 2007 were true as they both got back into the studio in 2009 and began working on what would be Heligoland.

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Heligoland was released in 2010 and became certified gold in the UK. Although the album didn’t receive the same critical praise the other albums did, personally I still love it. I remember I listened to this one as I was headed into my final years in college and album provided an odd sense of relaxation and serenity I needed during that time. Everything from their classic sound Pray for Rain with guest vocalist Tunde Adebimpe to electronica almost soulful sound of Splitting the Atom, one that Albarn contributed to as keyboardist.

Recently the band released the EP Ritual Spirit which has received wide critical praise. Featuring the songs Dead Editors, Ritual Spirit, Voodoo in My Blood, and Take it There. It has a lot of their old sound while still featuring welcome new artists such as Young Fathers and Azekel. The video for Voodoo in My Blood even received praise with actress Rosamund Pike appearing in the video as a woman possessed.

Even with all this info about the band’s history and its members, that ultimately won’t get much people into them. What matters as with any musical artist is how the music makes you feel. For me personally, this band always has a song for every mood I am in. One song in particular, “Live With Me”, is the ultimate break up song and I have embarrassed myself on numerous occasions singing this song on karaoke.

Massive Attack still tours today and are among one of the most popular bands in the world. The band also does numerous charity work and political activism for charities such as Hoping Foundation, which help Palestinian children. Still like that rainy day, they affect me no matter what song it is. Whether I want to cry, cheer up, or just dance care free they are always there. And that to me is why music is so important. Thank you Massive Attack and for all that you did and continue to do.