0301: “Blue Lines” by Massive Attack

[In which we skip hip data to get the anti-matter…]

There is really no other way to put this: Blue Lines, the debut album by Massive Attack, is the coolest album I’ve ever heard. The word “cool” gets ascribed to music a lot but for me cool has always been used as a modifier for an artist’s image or their music videos—everything but the actual music. The actual music of an artist or song I like more times than not will elicit greats, awesomes, outstandings, iconics, instant classics; a trip to the thesaurus is usually in order. Blue Lines is every ounce of the word masterpiece and every synonym of great, and it’s also just so fucking cool. Like Lee Morgan’s trumpet in “Blue Train” level cool. This album represents the zenith of the short-lived genre of trip hop, a genre born in the U.K. (specifically Bristol, in England) that combined experimental elements that could never really fit the traditional mold of hip hop. “Blue Lines” has a beat that feels like what some American hip hop would eventually sound like a few years later but also the way that Tricky, 3D, and Daddy G rotate vocals can sound extremely unique to American ears, not simply because all three are British but because the entire space and borders of the song have room to breathe. Every note and syllable are perfectly placed and has weight and no single thing is wasted. The whole album is like this: nine tracks of otherworldly music with subtle samples and spot-on rhythms and perfectly matched vocals to complete the whole (every track with Shara Nelson singing is a damn show-stopper), a gem of an album from across the world from a scene unlike anything that was happening in the States at the same time, an album created by some kids confident in their creativity. Trip hop may have never caught on and Blue Lines may not have created a sizable footprint in the U.S. but it is a bona fide masterpiece—a piece of art that is inspired by everything from Pink Floyd to Isaac Hayes and comes out sounding like the coolest jazz album ever made, an album that will make you move your feet but move your head even more.

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