Classics: Portishead – Sour Times (Go Beat)
‘Sour Times’ may be one of Portishead‘s biggest classics… Nothing comes by coincidence at the end. Beginning with its instant cinematic feel. Itself most likely inherited from the insertion of a sample of ‘Danube Incident’ courtesy of famous composer Lalo Schifrin.
‘Sour Times’ is a title that speaks for itself. Pretty much illustrative of a then emerging Trip Hop scene in Britain back in the mid-90’s. And in the meantime, quite reminiscent of that sound which Parisian act Air crafted almost at the same time. Not to mention of the late famous French singer / lyricist / musician Serge Gainsbourg. Himself considered by many as the initiator of the genre. And this most likely by the beginning of the 70’s with the ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ album and its seminal compositions such as the incredible ‘Melody’.
Born in Exeter, Devon, Beth Gibbons, a contralto singer, moved to Bristol in her early 20’s. There she met Geoff Barlow with whom she formed Portishead along with third member Adrian Utley. The threesome eventually makin’ their debut back in 1994 with the ‘Dummy’ album on Go Beat.
On the heels of the memorable ‘Numb’, ‘Sour Times’ is their second single and one of their signature cuts, which put them to the forefront of the then emerging Trip Hop scene along with Bent later on. A third single by the likes of ‘Glory Box’ adding to the consistancy of this effort seen by many as one of the greatest albums in the genre.
It took three years before seeing Portishead givin’ a follow-up to ‘Dummy’. This by the likes of an eponymous album which, using a different grain, spanned another three singles. From ‘Over to ‘Only You’ in addition to ‘All Mine’ which achieved a Top 10 placing in the UK.
The same year, the band delivered a live album. The later featuring new orchestral arrangements that had seen the light earlier on during a one-off show with strings at NYC’s the Roseland Ballroom. Then in 1999, Portishead recorded ‘Motherless Child’ with Tom Jones for his ‘Reload’ album. This before seeing its members most likely focusing on solo activities during the five comin’ years. Portishead eventually covering Serge Gainsbourg‘s “Un jour comme un autre (Requiem for Anna)’ on the tribute album ‘Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited’ that saw the light in the ealy days of 2006.
Portishead delivered their third album by the likes of… ‘Third’ in April 2008. Eventually moving away from the Trip Hop style which had made their popularity. Meanwhile embracing different vibes. This with the incorporation of influences such as Doo Wop, Cinematic, Electronica and Experimental Rock.
In addition to this, Portishead made themselves quite a reputation. This while performing at some of the greatest musical events in Europe along with time.
More recently, they produced a cover of ABBA‘s song ‘SOS’ for the ‘High-Rise’ OST. On June 22, 2016, Portishead released an official video for the song that recontextualized it in the wake of the then-recent murder of British MP Jo Cox and the Brexit vote, taking place the next day. The video ending with Beth Gibbons reaching her hand out towards the viewer with a quote by Cox then appearing… “We have far more in common than which divides us.”