Imposter band passed off as Portishead...

Portishead are one of the first bands to fall victim to a new twist in record piracy; bands of soundalikes being passed off as the real thing.

An album purporting to be by Portishead called ‘Pearl’ was picked up in Russia by a journalist working there who contacted nme.com. It was an 11 track album with professional artwork and seemingly new tracks; it sounded a bit like Portishead, though there were some doubts as to whether or not it actually was.

The album was on a known bootleg label called Always Records – common in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern European countries – but also carried the Go! BeatPortishead‘s label – logo and a copyright statement.


There was some speculation – particularly on Portishead fan sites – that the album may have been a Beth Gibbons solo album that had somehow been leaked to or stolen by bootleggers.

Richard Chamberlain of Go! Beat in the UK confirmed that it was definitely not Portishead.

“It’s not Beth singing,” he told nme.com. “I don’t know what it is. Definitely nothing to do with us.”

Further investigation by the journalist who first uncovered the story revealed that it was actually an existing album by a band called Mandalay.

One bootleg collector that nme.com spoke to claims that this is a new twist.

“In the 60s, you would sometimes get regional record labels in America putting out tracks by local artists that were supposedly by better known acts,” he said. “It was often soul artists. You would get somebody in Seattle putting out records by Wilson H Pickett or something that sounded nothing like Wilson Pickett. You would also get touring bands in Britain passing themselves off as American bands who had had hit records. In those days people didn’t always know what they looked like so it was easy to do.”


In the late 70s, one relatively famous scam involved an Australian garage band turning out a compilation album of supposedly obscure 60s psychedelic punk tracks by different bands.

There are other Portishead bootlegs circulating in Russia including one features Portishead tracks interspersed with tracks from Propellerheads‘Decksanddrumsandrockandroll’.

Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries have become havens for CD bootlegging and data piracy because international organisations find it difficult to police operations there. But this is the first case anyone has come across of an existing band being used to sell imitation product.

Click here to read NME‘s review of the Mandalay album from last year.

Click here to hear a snatch of the dummy Portishead. Would you be fooled?

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