When a new album comes out critics write their opinions about that group songs and the rest of the world reads it. Then the XXI century came and everyone gets to write about music, photography, moving pictures and even tea flavors. Even the writers of this web log do that!
The new century also brought new models of distribution (I avoid "trade" for... well, everyone knows about what Radiohead did and they did it great). Nowadays one can buy stand alone songs and the unity of the album is shattered into 10 little bits, more or less. Each song has its own value and has to prove itself on the radio, Internet stores and P2P (oops...)
Of course this is reflected in the witting process: albums get shorter in length (how many albums do you know with 80 minutes?) and individual songs are being released before and after the main anchor-albums. Artists get creative thinking about how to get to the listeners and how to do it bypassing the giant evil records.
But we are already drifting away from what I wanted to say today...
Portishead's last album features songs that seem very different from each other to the listener. One of the songs, "Machine Gun" happens to be my "Best Song of 2008". This particular song has a sweet yet kind of disturbed voice singing simple melodies while some electronic noisemakers set the pace of the song on a background that clearly goes against the song.
So we get more than one song. There is an anti-song inside it. One could expect that song+anti-song=NOTHING AT ALL. That couldn't be far from the truth. Although the instruments we hear could fit perfectly in some Wolf eyes noise album in this particular case they are used in a clearly defined and repetitive cycle - a simple one actually.
So the result is a very mechanic background with no personality at all and a voice that shatters all that, calling the listener for further reflection. This is an example of the "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" triad, as Hegel put it.
In this case the thesis is the voice and lyrics that change and show evolution as the song goes. The antithesis is the negation of the thesis (sweet voice, melody, etc): organized repetitive noise. The synthesis is not in the song - the solution, instead of being formed by a common truth, is the sense that all that makes in our heads. And the title of the song helps to form this meaning. This is all a big philosophical pile of shit if you don't hear the song for yourself and find your own meaning. I thing that the process is the same but the synthesis that comes out of it may be very different and subjective, as Hegel would want :)
The veredict: *****