Leeds Town And Country Club

Maybe [a]Fergie[/a] came off lightly when she tangled with [a]Massive Attack[/a] at the [B]MTV Awards[/B]....

MAYBE [a]Fergie[/a] CAME OFF lightly when she tangled with [a]Massive Attack[/a] at the MTV Awards. After all, what’s a bit of ridicule before the world’s media, when the Bristolian grumps could’ve got really evil, forcing her to listen to the Manic Street Preachers‘ horrific power-rock remix of ‘Inertia Creeps’? It’s a close call, frankly.

The Duchess might shy from exploring more of this vast 11-CD box set of all the band’s singles (plus accompanying remixes and extra tracks), but Massive monomaniacs have a phenomenal 57 other tracks to choose from. That’s a whole lot of paranoiac stoner vibrations and conspiratorial funking. Shucks, and it’s probably their way of wishing us a pensive Christmas and uptight New Year…

But while numerous chancers wish to envelop us in spectral sounds these days, this reminds us that [a]Massive Attack[/a] are the only ones really worth turning to. From Shara Nelson‘s empowered quavering on ‘Daydreaming’ to the gruff rapping and tenebrous guitars of ‘Inertia Creeps’, they’ve always reinvented themselves with finesse, never trashing the fundamentals they built their name on. Be it the still miraculous ‘Unfinished Sympathy‘, the anthemic swirling of ‘Hymn Of The Big Wheel’, the otherworldly genius of ‘Sly’, the lurking dread of ‘Karmacoma’, or the window-smashing vehemence of ‘Risingson’, like all great soul music, [a]Massive Attack[/a]’s succeeds in hitting a tone that’s euphoric and plaintive, serene and intense, and therein lies their wizardry.

So the cast of extras – Nelson, Horace Andy, Tricky, Nicolette, Tracey Thorn, Liz Fraser – changes regularly. And so does the sonic make-up, from rough-hewn hip-hop, to lush songs, to the multi-layered overload of ‘Mezzanine’, as tunes from their three albums glide by. But Massive Attack remain pretty much peerless throughout, unveiling golden evidence that they’ll influence more bands in the next two decades than any rock outfit we could mention.

Then there are the remixes. Early examples by the likes of Nellee Hooper and Perfecto mainly settle for tweaking the beats, but come ‘Sly’, the twiddlers throw caution to the wind, with Mad Professor providing the first of many dubscape reappraisals, jettisoning sounds to the distant horizon before they boomerang back with double impact. Portishead deliver lo-fi hellfire on their version of ‘Karmacoma’; the (Primal) Scream Team place Liz Fraser at the eye of a weirdo-jazzo typhoon on ‘Teardrop’; Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon‘s ‘Angel’ is a collage of bleeps built in their own art school image; and Underworld achieve the impossible with ‘Risingson’ – expertly reshaping it as an upbeat hypno-house belter.

A quicker, more direct way to explore [a]Massive Attack[/a] would obviously be to revisit their three albums. But if you’re into the band as much as Fergie doubtless detests them, this is an extreme indulgence you might want to take.

Got six spare hours? Well, here’s how to eat them up in style.