Massive Attack and special guest DJ Shadow both pulled up in Tokyo last night promoting new releases. Massive Attack with their recently launched fourth album - '100th Window', and DJ Shadow was following up on his '91 one debut - 'Endtroducing' with his recently released 'Private Press'.
In a way both Massive Attack and DJ Shadow both had something in common in that they were both endeavoring to live up to huge reputations built on preceding work. All three previous Massive Attack albums are absolutely superb, and this time around both Mushroom and Daddy G were missing from the lineup, leaving 3D and producer Neil Davidge to carry the flag. Is the new album any good ?? - ummm jury is still out on that. It has its moments, but for me anyway, it definately doesn't come anywhere near the heights of the previous three. Sinead O'Connor is the obligatory female vocalist, and I definately thought she was underutilised. She has an incredibly powerful voice and the songs she features on could have been done by anyone. Highlight of the album : 'Future Proof'.
I was delighted with DJ Shadows new offering though. Endtroducing in '91 was the defining album of that time of my life - along with Radiohead's OK Computer and Daft Punk's Homework. I'd been following DJ Shadow's work as a producer with the Quannum collective, and I think he did some stuff with Nightmares On Wax ? - not sure about that, but that was all laid back hip-hop. Very different to the sampling scratching approach he takes to his solo album stuff. I was a bit surprised that it didn't come out on the Mo Wax label as there seemed to be a certain synergy there, so I apporached this album with a certain amount of trepidation but there proved to be no need for it. The first time I was listening to the album I was on the subway nodding my head going - 'ummm nice' when 'You Can't Go Home' came on. I sat up bolt upright thinking - 'I know that song - I LOVE that song !!' ......... it took me a while to work it out, but it was of course off Naz' excellent ***Shakedown*** mix !!
Anyway I like the album a lot. Massive Attack's one - we'll see. Maybe it just needs more time. I haven't given up on it entirely yet.
So - enough about albums - how about the gig ? It was being held outside Tokyo on a Tuesday at 7pm beside Disneyland in the pissing rain. A strange and bizarre time and place for a gig - especially the time. 7pm after work is just not a good time for a gig. Seems to be a normal thing in Tokyo though. The whole thing went badly wrong from the start when I got onto the wrong train to get there. Instead of jumping onto the local train I jumped onto a super-duper express which took off like a bullet-train northwards. It took me about 10 minutes to realise that the train hadn't stopped at any of the stations. I was not a happy man when I saw the map and realised that I wasn't getting off until I got to Soga - out in the wilds of Ibaraki. There was Canadian girl on the train who'd done the exact same thing, which made me feel slightly less stupid, but no less pissed off for the hour it took to get out there and back. I'd given myself half an hour to spare so I only missed half an hour in the end. DJ Shadow was on first off though and his set was only 45 minutes long so I only caught the last 15 minutes - FUCK ............. not good. The last fifteen minutes were really good though - although he spent far too much time pontificating about the war. He spent the last 5 minutes on this experiment of what he reckons is the next dimension - introducing a visual element to music. Basically when there's a drumbeat you see a drumstick hitting a drum on a big screen behind him, same with guitar and so-on. Hard to describe, but interesting nonetheless. I don't think it'll ever progress beyond the experimental stage though.
Massive Attack were up next, and after the obligatory minute of silence for the war off they went with 'Future Point'. Unfortunately the sound system wasn't optimised to 3D's voice so we could barely hear him at all over the instruments. It was a very 'live' setup, which I wasn't expecting. A drummer, 2 guitarists and keyboarder.
The gig started off sloppily enough. The songs off the new album didn't really make much of an impression, but the visuals were really good. They had a giant TV screen behind them, with all sorts of interesting stats, images, and Kanji (japanese characters) flashing on it. The kanji was saying things like "War bad" "peace good" so I was told - very original .............. It was only when they started playing the stuff off their older albums that things really started to kick. Daddy G turned up for a few songs and Shara Nelson appeared for some Blue Lines material. She did 'Unfinished Sympathy' and 'Safe From Harm' - definately the highlights - fucking brilliant. They had two blond women singing with them but I couldn't work out who they were. One of them did a brilliant rendition of 'Teardrop' so she might have been Liz Frazer, but somehow that didn't seem likely. They were good though, except that one of them completely mangled 'Black Milk' which my favorite Massive song - I don't know if I can ever forgive her for that.
So that was it. Probably the first gig I've ever gone to where I wasn't pissed drunk, stoned or under the influence of something. The gig was over around 10pm and by the time we got back into town it was 11.30, so there was nothing to do except go home - I didn't like that ................ apart from that though the gig was brilliant. Get your tickets early if they're coming to your part of the world.