Week 11: Portishead – Dummy

28 Oct

I had this album on tape. TAPE! When Gaga finally joins us, he or she will look at cassette tapes with the same bafflement we look at penny farthings, capital punishment and food set in aspic.

I knew I wanted to do a dance record this week, and I was going to do something more upbeat, but I’m not really in a raving zone. My insomnia has risen up and is shaking me by the tail. The second I wake up, whether it’s due to husband drunkenly weeing in the bath, cat on bedside table sticking its head in my glass of water or strange yelping dog parading up and down the road outside, I am bolt awake, in need of being fed, and then incapable of getting back to sleep again. It was my birthday yesterday (the last one that will be quite so laid back and me-focused for a while) and it was lovely, but busy. And now I am tired.

This lovely trippy, snoozy bedtime record is just what’s needed. It makes me think of one of my own parents, specifically my Dad, who has had enormous influence on my taste in music – though he almost definitely doesn’t realise it. We saw Portishead for the first time on Jools Holland, just before they released the phenomenal single Glory Box. Dad always used to record Jools on VHS “so I can fast-forward the ones I don’t like”. We did agree on some of the same stuff on the programme- these and Elastica really stand out in my mind, plus any really impressive female vocalists. However he never really understood why I loved the rowdy bands that came on like Radiohead and the Foo Fighters and the like. He would resist fast-forwarding them if I was there, but I could still sense the cogs turning as he developed an opinion to be ejected the minute they finished playing (normally “what a racket!”) Even though he didn’t like it, he still got me playing it. I’ll always remember begging him to teach me how to play Smells Like Teen Spirit on guitar and him saying “ahhh, now those sound like power chords. Here’s how you do those…” and from that day on I never really played anything else.

Portishead though. We both agreed on them. I was never really interested in much they did after, but this album is classic. It sounds like womb-music too, an eerie dream-world with Beth Gibbons’ voice floating over it like a beautiful, miserable ghost.

It’s just as good as I remembered it being. I might even go back to bed after this.

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