Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Vinyl)

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This noir classic [1998] which builds tension like a fever, a harbinger of human tragedy which permeated the post-rave comedown of that decade even though it was once emblematic of the ebullient '90s-era zeitgeist from once it became.
Mezzanine hits the listener like a ton of bricks. It remains a shadowy void built on meandering sitars, buzzsaw guitars, throbbing sub-bass and ethereal lyrics. Unlike their previous records, which relied heavily on samples and synthesizers, Mezzanine marked a foray into subtle instrumentation with lyrics evoking a claustrophobic urban miasma.
The 21st anniversary tour (in 2019) of this seminal album integrated audio visual backdrops cut through with the subtley of old Soviet propaganda (similar to TV today): once upon a time, technology was going to set us free but now we are trapped in an algorithmic hall of mirrors, an endless circuit of fear consumption & sensory assaults that distracts us from the horrors beyond our comprehension, so covert we cannot see through its depth of deception.
Mezzanine's cinematic quality has many defining moments, is chocoblock full of guest star appearances and stands tall as an album built around echoes of the '70s, wrestled through the immediacy of its creators' tumultuous '90s, and is fearless enough that it still sounds like it belongs in whatever timeframe or headspace you're playing it in todays parallel universe.


It was a fairly terrifying voyage, 5:36AM, from my sunken flat to the bus stop up the street, a barrage of trees and bleary areas that would be perfect for non-resident lurkers to conceal themselves all lining the three minutes of road, awkwardly stepping around roots, broken bottles, and disposed condoms. You've got to love a college town. I ignited Mezzazine by about the first tree, a brooding rhythm slowly manifesting and a very curious apprehension coming over me. I was sure it was the darkness at the time, but succeeding bedroom sessions with the album would see a reemergence of that creeping tingle; from its very first moments, Massive Attack establishes their presence. From there on, well... can I confess something? I don't like "Angel". It bored me, to a point where I internally gasped and pondered, "Will the entirety of my sleepy outing be comprised of the sort of monotony that this tune churns?" That feeling didn't end up sustaining itself, because by the time I was engulfed in the lunacy of "Risingson", I was hooked to this monster.

That bus did come, but not until I'd navigated across half of this album. In that time, enough entertainment had come to visually complement the nervous jubilation that was unfolding in my ears. Three tow trucks were called, and only one of them departed with a vehicle teetering behind it; I'm guessing that whoever needed its services had become impatient, and the multiple dispatches came solely from an obsolete system at whatever company resided nearby. A police officer nestled herself in the nook of an adjacent entryway, alleviating the anxiety that would pang whenever a fellow late-nighter would pass me by. The most notable remembrance of waiting for about 35 minutes before I'd be received was watching the montage of buses as they poured from the direction of the depot, 'Out of Order' signs in their digital banner and all diverging from each other as they headed to their first checkpoint of the day. It made me think of them as humble animals, almost. Humble, mechanical animals that served the greater good of helping students find their way to classes and minimum-wage jobs. I think I was being serenadingly tickled by "Dissolved Girl" at this point, Everything up until that point is foreplay; the action begins here.

I must say, I'm quite enamored by the bedlamite in "Man Next Door". His frantic depictions of what may be a most terrifying neighbor makes me chuckle, probably because it is that man who is the sane one and this is our monster. The capriciousness in his voice, those sudden shifts of enunciation that go entirely what the rest of his sentence sounded like, these things make me feel as if I'm truly looking into the internal workings of a madman. I think it was underneath the fading of the drums that The Forest Bus screeched before me, for it is of the most cloying bit of this memory that I recall "Black Milk" slowly kissing everyone and everything within the air-conditioned dimness of a morning commute. This is one of the moodiest things I've ever ran into, almost welcoming the scorching day ahead in cherishing those last bits of dry coolness that often rises and falls at 6AM. Like I said, I was on a bus at this point and I didn't experience that firsthand, but the aesthetic shows itself later. As I've declared, it is amazing that this CD shows such a shifting of feeling based on where and when you're listening to it. Most albums can be this way, but very few end up being just as exquisite regardless.

The title track also rocked me fairly thoroughly, that little tune seeping through like a polyphonic cellphone ring and the percussive ingeniousness slowly escalating as the skyline came into view, an eastbound ride meaning a sun that would be rising over that capital tower only minutes from that moment. I think some moment of self-awareness washed over me as this was segueing into what was next, but the haziness of finding the stop I wanted, disembarking with a couple of sluggish elderly gentlemen, and wandering into Ponce de Leon Park has ended up overriding any memory of the rest of the ride. I sat and became a fountaingazer as the stunning entirety of "Group Four" crescendoed and tantalized, enthralled by how the yellow lights would refract throughout the jumping water (I'm surprised that this place could even be called a park, benches and this single fountain being the only thing on this quarter-acre plot); it briefly passed my mind, a schadenfreude, that I had a yearning that I could jump into the waters while fully clothed and basking in the darkness that still washed over this fair city, and how they would probably be only mildly colder than my body would comfortably enjoy. I thought about how swimming in fountains should be a commonly accepted, legislation-supported campaign hot issue of 2012, and how such gorgeous pleasures will never happen if it so physically available. This is what I thought about during that monolith of a penultimate closer, and it will be impossible for me to ever disconnect the two.

I went into this one blindly, refusing to research anything about Massive Attack and having promptly forgotten what genre tags even resided on this page; I remembered only that they were known for creating one of the greatest electronic albums ever lauded or promoted, and that Mezzanine was their brightest spire. I'm fairly smitten by enough of this album to really empathize with why masterpiece status has fallen into its neck of the woods. Mezzanine is quite a delight even to the uncultured urchin that is me, and I'm grateful that I can thoroughly assess its stature with class and dignity.

By: VitoJames.

A1 Angel
Written-By – Vowles*, Marshall*, Hinds*, Del Naja*

A2 Risingson
Performer ["I Found A Reason" Sample] – The Velvet Underground
Written-By – Vowles*, Marshall*, Del Naja*
Written-By ["I Found A Reason" Sample] – Reed*, Seeger*

A3 Teardrop
Written-By – Vowles*, Fraser*, Marshall*, Del Naja*

B1 Inertia Creeps
Written-By – Vowles*, Marshall*, Del Naja*

B2 Exchange
Performer ["Our Day Will Come" Samples] – Isaac Hayes
Written-By – Bob Hilliard, Mort Garson

B3 Dissolved Girl
Written-By – Vowles*, Marshall*, Schwartz*, Del Naja*, Sara Jay

C1 Man Next Door
Performer ["10:15 Saturday Night" Sample] – The Cure
Written-By – Holt*
Written-By ["10:15 Saturday Night" Sample] – Tolhurst*, Dempsey*, Smith*

C2 Black Milk
Written-By – Vowles*, Fraser*, Marshall*, Del Naja*

C3 Mezzanine
Written-By – Vowles*, Marshall*, Del Naja*

D1 Group Four
Written-By – Vowles*, Fraser*, Marshall*, Del Naja*

D2 (Exchange)
Lyrics By [Additional] – Horace Andy
Performer ["Our Day Will Come" Samples] – Isaac Hayes
Written-By – Bob Hilliard, Mort Garson

Art Direction, Design – Robert Del Naja, Tom Hingston
Bass [Bass Guitars] – Bob Locke, John Harris*, Winston Blissett
Computer [Pro Tools] – Jan Kybert*
Drums – Andy Gangadeen
Engineer – Lee Shepherd*
Guitar – Angelo Bruschini
Keyboards [Additional] – Dave Jenkins (7), Michael Timothy
Keyboards, Sampler [Samples] – Massive Attack, Neil Davidge
Lacquer Cut By [Runout Etching i…i] – Sean Magee
Lighting – Tom Nulty
Management [Tour Director] – John Gray (10)
Management [Tour Representation] – David Levy (5), Deluxe (23), ITB, Jeremy Joseph (2), Jonathan Levine (3), MPA (2), Metropolis Music (2), Raye Cosbert
Management [Worldwide Representation/West] – Marc Picken
Mixed By – Mark 'Spike' Stent*
Mixed By [Assistant] – Jan Kybert*, P-Dub*
Mixed By [Live Mix] – Mark Littlewood
Performer [On Stage] – Angelo Bruschini, Deborah Miller, Michael Timothy, Winston Blisset*
Photography By – Nick Knight
Producer, Arranged By – Massive Attack, Neil Davidge
Programmed By – Massive Attack, Neil Davidge
Tour Manager – Andrew Mansi (2)
Vocals – Elizabeth Fraser, Grant Marshall, Horace Andy, Robert Del Naja, Sara Jay