Portishead – Dummy: #480 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Portishead - Dummy

So why is Portishead’s Dummy on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

There are many reasons why Dummy has endured as a standout album some three decades after its release in 1994. Portishead conjures such an exquisite and specific mood throughout, meshing trip-hop, electronica, and beautifully melancholy lounge vibes with Beth Gibbons’ magnificent voice.

In other words, there are very few albums that work just as well for bumming out, sipping a martini, or dancing (or all three, if you’re really of A Mood?), but this right here is one.

The song that resonates with me most on this album is “Sour Times,” and what a fantastic song name too, for starters. There’s something about the dark, beguiling bassline and the way it segues into the chorus that gets me every time.

‘Cause nobody loves me, it’s true
Not like you do

Those lyrics can cut both ways – multiple ways, really. Love itself cuts, tears, rips us apart. And that can be in all the best ways or in all the worst ways, perhaps even all of the above at the same time. Sour times, indeed.

“Roads” feels like the song that should be playing right after you get your heart broken at your high school prom. Which is to say that if there was a list of the best 1,000 songs ever to play right after you get your heart broken at your high school prom, “Roads” would be number one with a bullet.

“Glory Box” is arguably Portishead’s best known song, and it’s for good reason. It has all the elements I mention above, and beyond that has kind of a “big” and cinematic feel.

Overall, you just can’t go wrong throwing on Dummy if you’re having a few cocktails, and it automatically ups the vibe level on any kind of lounge scene.

Personal stuff that somehow relates to Portishead’s Dummy

I went to three proms during my high school years, and the more I think about it, it makes for something of a three-act play.

Let me preface things by stating that at least when I was a kid, the pressure to find A Date for the prom was absurd. If things are more that everyone can go as a group these days or in whatever formulation your heart desires, that represents some tiny slice of progress in making the emotional lives of young ‘uns just a little bit easier in my view.

So for Act I, I was a sophomore and got asked to go to the junior prom with someone who I’m sure was in the mad scramble to find A Date. We knew each other well enough, but were not close friends.

There are two excruciating parts to Act I, having nothing to do with my date herself, who was a very nice girl. The first involves music – not Portishead, but Led Zeppelin. She was driving us somewhere right after she had asked me to the prom, and “Black Dog” came on. Attempting to sound Older and Cool, I proclaimed something to the effect that the thesis of the song was about getting laid.

Not a banner moment in the young life of Mr. Berlin.

The second part came when I arrived to “pick her up” for the prom itself. Things were arranged, I believe, for me to get to her house in the limousine that was to take us – and a few other couples – to the prom.

When I got out of the limo, I felt like I had arrived at a wedding. My wedding.

She had a huge Italian family, and they all seemed to be there – aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and on and on – and they all wanted to take an unending series of pictures of and withThe Happy Couple.

In Act II, the roles were reversed to an extent. This time I was a junior who invited a sophomore who I was more or less acquaintances with out of the need to find a… well, you get it. We got along great pre-prom, but the prom itself wound up being very awkward for reasons that I’m sure were my fault.

No, I didn’t make any proclamations about Led Zeppelin, but the British lads are once again involved! Things were going poorly to the extent that I recall “Stairway to Heaven*” playing while I sang along and my date sat there next to me… Awk-ward, as Pauly D of Jersey Shore might say.

* Maybe I should have saved these stories for my (spoiler!) Led Zeppelin IV best 1,000 albums ever entry!

Act III is sub-titled something like It All Worked Out for Everyone. I struck out after asking a few of my classmates to the prom, and then finally was able to get my friend Lisa to go with me, who I’m sure was in her own hustle to find a… you get it.

Thankfully, we got along great and both fully acknowledged without any words that we were mutually thrilled to find a warm body to get through the pictures and formality and all such nonsense with. After the prom, she went off with her group of friends, as did I, and it worked out swimmingly for all.

The end.

Some stats & info about Portishead – Dummy

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Trip-Hop, Electronic Music, Lounge Music, Martini Lounge, British Bands, Dance Music
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #131
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Dummy released? 1994
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #480 out of 1,000

Portishead’s Dummy on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Portishead’s Dummy that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

I’m so tired of playing, playing with this bow and arrow. Gonna give my heart away, leave it to the other girls to play.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.