Drum 'n' Bass THE ROUGH GUIDE
Inspired by Charlie Aheam's
pseudo-documentary of hip-hop culture, Wild Style. Grant Marshall (aka Daddy
G), Robert Del Naja
(3D), Andrew Vowles (Mushroom), Nellee Hooper, Milo Johnson and Claude "Willie Wee" Williams formed the Bristol hip-hop collective The
Wild Bunch. Accused by some of destroying the city's live music scene because of the popularity of their parties. The Wild Bunch would epitomise the sound (an agglomeration of hip-hop, rare groove, soul, reggae and rock influences) and organisation (loose affiliations of multi-media artists) of music groups in post-hip-hop Britain despite releasing only one single during their five-year lifespan. "Friends and Countrymen/The Look of Love" (1987). While the Wild Bunch are largely myth and legend to those who lived outside Bristol, their legacy lives on in the group that grew out of the collective, Massie Attack.
With a core of Daddy G, 3D and Mushroom. Massive Attack formed in 1988 after the break-up of The Wild Bunch and released a cover of Chaka Khan's "Any Love", which was produced by fellow Bristolians Smith and Mighty. Their real calling card, however, was "Daydreaming" (1990). With Tricky and 3D quoting Fiddler on the Roof and The Beatles while floating on a stream-of-consciousness detachment, background inhalations and exhalations, creeping bpms and Shara Nelson's blues whispers,"Daydreaming" was all about the doped-out headspace that results from "living in my headphones". Backed with Larry Heard's gorgeous remix of "Any Love", the single heralded the arrival of "the Bristol sound" and presaged the development of Trip-Hop.
Their debut album. Blue
Lines (1991), was quite simply epochal. Incorporating Bristol's laconic take
on hip-hop, reggae vocalist Horace Andy, the jazz-fusion of Billy Cobham, the
James Brownian motion of funk, symphonic '70s soul and the "death disco"
of Public Image Limited, Blue Lines was the first representation of a certain
kind of syncretic Britishness that would define the island's music for the next
decade. Just as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin re-read African-American
blues as the soundtrack for the sexual liberation of Swinging London, Massive
Attack reworked the ganja crawl of reggae and bloodshot atmospheres of hip-hop
as the sound of post-Thatcher disengagement from society: "There's no sunshine
in my life because the way I deal is hazy"; "Are you predatory? Do
you fear me?"; "Just be thankful for what you got"; "Excommunicated
from the brother-hood of man".
When The Massive Attack EP (1992) was released, Nelson and Tricky had more or less drifted out of the group and the one new track. "Home of the Whale", featured vocals from Caroline Lavelle. With Tom-Waits-produced-by-Danny-Elfman music and the ethereal, almost folk vocals,"Home of the Whale" prefigured the direction that Massive Attack would take on their next two records.
Three years and a copious amount of spliffs on from Blue Lines, Protection (1994) was released to much fanfare. Aside from the gorgeous title track with stunning vocals from Everything But the Girl's Tracy Thorn, though, the album was a further retreat into paranoiac Inner space and marijuana fog, with less to offer in terms of hooks and swing. Although the album was already wrapped in a cloud of bass and a patina of rust, dub producer Mad Professor mixed the album into a vortex of quicksand gravity on his dub version of the album. No Protection (1994). Despite being beaten at their own game by neighbours Portishead and exile Tricky, the album was received rapturously and led to them working with Madonna on her cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You". "Risingson" (1997) heralded their third album with an edgy discomfiting, guitar-led sound. Mezzanine (1998) was all jagged edges, morose textures and brooding menace. The only respites were the tracks featuring Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser, whose airy vocals brought a vague sense of peace to the gothic Sturm and Drana of the album. Mezzanine nearly caused the band to split during its prolonged and painful recording and it was the sound of a comedown when the highpoint was as saturnine as Blue Lines. Mezzanine was a long way down.
An eleven-CD collection
of their past singles and remixes wrapped in heat-sensitive packaging, the Singles
Collection (1999) was meant to prove that they were the most important British
band of the '90s, but its almost mercenary capitalism left a sour taste.
Blue Lines Circa 1991. Probably the.best, certainly the most important, album of the decade, Blue Lines defined the sound of Britain's carcass after Thatcher had finished with it.