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Our Music Year No. 183: Portishead, ‘Dummy’

By From page A5 | July 02, 2013

Artist: Portishead
Title: “Dummy”
Year: 1994
Format: Digital (Spotify)
Grade: A-

“Dummy” broke down doors for Portishead and stands today as a trip hop classic.

It ushered in the genre, cribbing from hip-hop and downtempo electronic music to its own beast. It also earned Portishead England’s Grammy equivalent, the Mercury Prize.

“Dummy” maintains an icy calm throughout, thanks to liberal use of the Rhodes piano and Hammond organ. “It Could Be Sweet” takes only a Rhodes lick and some drum machine effects to create all the atmosphere it needs.

What ties it all together is Beth Gibbons, a contralto whose ability to soar above the simplicity remains the album’s best selling point. “Give me a reason to be a woman,” she gripes in the single “Glory Box,” a woman frazzled by the drama of her relationship.

Despite its themes, Portishead’s “Dummy” manages to be relatable rather than alienate its listener. It’s a fine line to walk, but Gibbons’ voice helps invite the listener into her troubles and the music underscores the range of emotions she is feeling.

It’s no wonder “Dummy” is so well-remembered.

Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
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