Massive Attack ‘Blue Lines'
(2012 mix/master) (EMI)
Just based on its first half, 1991 was shaping up as a terrible music year, and then the last four months completely redeemed it with the release of Nirvana's “Nevermind,” My Bloody Valentine's “Loveless,” Pearl Jam's “Ten,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers' “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” and Massive Attack's “Blue Lines.” But of all these albums, “Blue Lines” is the only one that forced listeners and critics to name a new subgenre to describe it.
Bristol, England's Massive Attack combined hip-hop beats and rapping with atmospheric psychedelia and foundation-shaking bass, and the group's influence over multiple genres continues to this day. Now, 21 years after its initial release, “Blue Lines” has been given a gorgeous remastering that spit-polishes and expands the mix.
Massive Attack began as a Bristol-based DJ collective called the Wild Bunch, and the first huge album to come from that fertile group was the 1989 Soul II Soul album, “Keep On Movin' (Club Classics, Vol. 1).”
But while that album produced by Wild Buncher and future Massive Attacker Nellee Hooper feels more like a time capsule, “Blue Lines” still sounds fresh and innovative, and the reissue gives Hooper's sonic grace notes room to stand out on tracks such as the opener “Safe From Harm,” letting the subtle electronics that were previously headphone experiences out in the open. Unlike many bands that followed, Massive Attack was not just creating spooky-soothing environmental music — there are great songs on “Blue Lines,” including the gorgeous R&B throwback “Be Thankful for What You've Got” and the Tricky-led dub-rap track “Five Man Army.”
The effect of remastering is evident when the huge bass sounds drop like depth charges on the lush and propulsive “Unfinished Sympathy” and “Daydreaming.” “Blue Lines” always sounded great, but now the new mix makes a difference that is clearly heard and, on the right sound system, deeply felt.
— George Lang