Massive Attack, Heligoland (2010)

I doubt the trajectory of my personal Massive Attack has been unique: I loved Blue Lines hopelessly, enjoyed Protection but felt nervous about how uneven it was, then actively disliked the noisy ponderousness of Mezzanine and, worse, was made to feel bad about not liking it by all the fans and critics saying that Mezzanine was their best work ever. I felt like it felt to have your best friend dump you for the cool kids and thereafter shun you on the playground. When 100th Window came out I didn’t even buy it.

It’s on order now, though, because if it’s as awesome as Heligoland then I can’t wait to hear it. Heligoland is something like a return to form, in that it’s accessible and features ethereal guest vocalists, but it’s also a new direction, and a really beguiling one at that. I’m not sure how to describe it. Maybe: “What if Radiohead had soul?” Or maybe: “Trip hop raises its gaze from its navel and stares you in the eye.” Or: “What if Cyberdyne Systems had commissioned Schubert’s Lieder?”

Ach, better you just listen. As Hope Sandoval’s future boyfriend (CALL ME!), I’m required to say that “Paradise Circus” is my favorite track, but “Girl I Love You” may be the best place to start if you want to hear how the group manages to integrate the vestiges of their earliest efforts with their newfound orchestral complexity. Every single track on the disc is rich and strange and wonderful. You can see the official videos here. I think the one for “Paradise Circus” is unfortunately and unnecessarily distracting. I think videos in general kind of suck as an art form, but that’s just me.

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