Every band’s got em’. Those songs that are not on any of their albums or singles. Songs that for whatever reason have’nt got any kind of release. Fans may have heard them from the band in question experimenting with it live or having it featured on the soundtrack to whatever.
Massive Attack ain’t no different. They’ve got some pretty listenable tunes, if I do say so, that are’nt anywhere to be found in record stores or on iTunes. I’ve picked out ten of them for this poll along with a quick background to the track and what I think is the best sounding audio we have of it to date.
There’s plenty more rare Massive Attack tracks out there (the fabled 20 minute long version of Small Time Shot Away, would be one), that I have’nt included on this here list, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere really.
As for rather any of these songs will ever get the spotlight they deserve – Who knows? LP6 or Collected V2.0 perhaps? I doubt even Massive knows at this stage.
Massive Attack and Shara Nelson together. How can you go wrong? Not on Blue Lines, and certainly not on this outtake from it either. Just A Matter Of Time, the song and it’s accompanying promo video were included only on a rare VHS tape included with copies of the now defunct “Dance International” magazine in 1991. Its got a soothing dubby loop over which Shara
sings emotes to. I could so easily imagine it on Blue Lines.
Almost as good as the song is the video that was shot for it. It’s unique amongst all Massive Attack vids. For one, it’s filmed in Bristol and second, it’s catching 3D, Daddy G and Mushroom in somewhat more casual surroundings than we’re used to seeing. Kinda of like a day in the life, as they go tooling around their hometown in search of Tricky with some other former Wild Bunch members.
The one problem with the video is that the onscreen activities sometimes obscure the song, which is of course why this song needs some sort of release beside just this obscure tape. What I would’nt give to hear a cleaned up version of this track. No more sounds of flushing toilets, kettles boiling or calls of “Where’s Tricky?” Right behind you; being the answer to that, of course.
Presumably named in honour of the 1970′s punk band “Wire”, this track alongside Dissolved Girl were the two Sara Jay numbers written during the Mezzanine period. One of which went to go on to be on the album and become a fan favourite, the other becoming one of the rarer and more sought after tracks in Massive’s back-catalogue. I suppose more a diehard fan favourite in that case.
I definitely have a great fondness for this track. I downloaded it off Soulseek way back in 2001, and could’nt stop listening to it. I love the rhythm and thumping bassline contrasted with the strings (scored by none other than Craig Armstrong) which come in halfway into it. Maybe because of the soaring strings, I kind of think of it as the post-punk alternative to Unfinished Sympathy.
There’s a number of versions floating around of this track. There’s the 6 minute long instrumental that’s on the “”Welcome To Sarajevo” soundtrack CD. There’s also the end credits music from the same film, that annoyingly cuts the song off around the 3:30 mark. And then there’s the live version that was played during the 1997 tour. If Massive should ever dust Wire off the shelf, then the live version I feel is the closet to what it should sound like.
If you were a fan of either Massive Attack or The Prodigy back in the early 00′s, then you probably were aware of all the hoopla surrounding their coming together on this track “No Souvenirs”, which was originally written for and then canned from from the now largely forgotten movie “The Beach”.
The hype for this one got a bit much with Liam praising the track as one of the best things he has ever done, and a mystique building around the track as something mind-blowing with Liam Howlett being called a selfish cunt for sitting on it year after year.
Flash forward to a few years ago, and a genuine remix of it by UNKLE popped up (apparently without any approval from Liam Howlett or UNKLE). And to be honest after all the hype for this track, this remix at least was very underwhelming to listen to. As the original might never be released, it still remains our only clue to what it may sound like. 3D’s vocals still shine through on the remix at least.
After touring with Massive for the 2 years prior, Dot Allison earned herself a guest vocalist slot on this little gem written for the “Danny the Dog” soundtrack in 2004. In a similar story to Wire, the song Aftersun appeared on the end credits of the film but was nowhere to be found on the soundtrack CD. I guess Massive Attack wanted the CD to be a purely instrumental affair, and having a vocal track may have distracted from that.
Dot released a download of the track on her website in 2005. You can kinda tell the track is still in a demo stage. Dot said as much in her interview with MassiveAttackArea. If this track were to be given a proper release, it would probably be needed to polish it up a bit more. Until then, there’s always the Youtube audio embed below. I recommend that over being forced to sit through Danny The Dog just to get to the end credits.
Red Light’s been knocking around now for some time now. Co-written by ‘Nice’ Guy Garvey of Mancunian band “Elbow”, a sample of it first appeared in the 2007 film “In Prision My Whole Life”, before being featured on both 2008 and 2009 tours sung by Stephanie Dosen and Martina Topley-Bird respectively. There was also a fair change in the arrangement of the song between those two tours. I go back and forth over which live arrangement was better.
It seems Massive Attack do too. I read in an interview at the time of Heligoland’s release that it is a track they have had trouble perfecting it in the studio. Hopefully someday we’ll get to hear a proper finished version of. Until then, you can content yourself with listening to this lovely soundboard recording of it from the 2009 tour. I definitely recommend it over the lacklustre Clark remix from the Atlas Air EP.
“There is always something nagging, pulling at the edges, tearing what’s left away.
There is always something waiting in the flowered circle, disguised by pleasantries.”
So begins All I Want, the opener of the 2008 tour, which featured Phantom Limb chanteuse, Yolanda Quarty. Like a lot of other Massive Attack greats, it got that whole seductive yet threatening vibe going on. One of the best openers from any of their tours for sure.
The other Yolanda song from that tour was Harpsichord, which would gradually morph into Paradise Circus on Heligoland, in what many consider to be the standout moment from that album. If it finds it way on there, then All I Want has the potential to be another such moment on the next Massive Attack album.
“Dobro”, apparently Polish for good, but for me that’s a bit of understatement. Undoubtedly, my favourite of the 2008 live tracks, it was big finale moment of the show, replacing Group Four in this capacity. I’d grown tried of Group Four at the end of the show, so this was a welcome switch-up.
Anyway, Dobro has this cool Eastern vibe running through it for the first half, almost like a more relaxed version of Inertia Creeps before erupting into a 4 minute crescendo of thundering guitar and drums. Love it!
There’s also the matter, that Massive Attack reappropriated some of the lyrics of Dobro, for use in Splitting The Atom the year later, which may or not be a strike against it ever getting a proper release. I for one am still holding out hope it’ll get released. I suspect that if it does so, it will be drastically altered from its live version in 2008. I guess the bombast of the track may work well on stage but not so well if directly translated onto disc.
As an aside, if you want to hear the best possible live recordings from 2008, I would recommend downloading the Vienna show. It was taped by a fellow named Martin, whose been a big taper and trader of Massive Attack live recordings now for nearly a decade. The sound quality of this particular show, is one of the best I’ve heard for an audience recording.
Of all the songs on this list, this is the one that sounds the most “Mezzanine”-esque of them all. Which is no bad thing at all, as Mezzanine was my gateway into Massive Attack and is still my favourite album.
Also, what’s great about this track is that its an awesome duet between D&G, just like on Risingson or Mezzanine. I always enjoy the interplay between them on these tracks and when they perform them live on stage, so getting a new one to add to that small number of songs was welcome.
Also, I love in the live version how they blended in the instrumental intro to Flat Of The Blade with Heartcliffe Star, becoming the opening number for the 2009 leg of the Heligoland tour, which I preferred to the United Snakes opener that they adopted for the 2010 shows.
As for why it did’nt make the final cut of Heligoland? Well, I guess in retrospect it was a bit too punky and abrasive for the rest of the album. Hopefully they’ll find a home for it one of these days.
Another duet song, this time between 3D and Martina Topley Bird, that debuted at the beginning of 2010 tour. Invade Me ended up replacing Red Light from the setlist. It’s got this lovely dramatic pulsing rhythm to it that flows throughout the song and Martina and 3D’s vocals sit well beside each other. It reminds me of some of the best of Martina’s tracks with Tricky in that respect.
In his interview with state.ie, 3D said that Invade Me nearly made the cut for Heligoland, so by the sounds of that they must have a finished version of the song ready to go. They really should have put it or maybe Red Light on the deluxe edition of the album instead of fobbing us off with United Snakes, which had already been released on the False Flags EP nearly four years prior to that. Including United Snakes on the deluxe edition was a lazy move, just saying. OK, rant over.
Last but not least, we have the 11/11/11 Demo song, or is it, 3D & Vermona? Either way, if it gets a proper release then I doubt it will be named either one of those two titles. It certainly puts their last internet-only release demo “Nature Of Threat”, from all the way back in 2000 to shame.
For a demo, I thought 11/11/11 was a nice way to end 2011 for Massive Attack by giving something free and unexpectedly back to their fans. I think they could just release it as is on iTunes at the very least, so I don’t have to put up with listening to the severely compressed 128kbps mp3 of it anymore.
You may also want to check out my (sic:) poor attempt at deciphering the lyrics to it.