Worth reading even if you don’t care about the music.
Wheaton strikes an excellent balance between smart, wide-ranging formal analysis and open praise... But what is even more impressive is how he successfully shows the resonances between Portishead's music and broader trends in musical/cultural history.... The writing in this book is sharp, engaging and weirdly ominous.
The book really gets to the roots of the album and offers some great insight into the recording processes, the critical reception and what Portishead helped inspire in the world of music...
About Portishead's Dummy
Celebrated by Slate as one of the best 10 books in Bloomsbury's acclaimed 33 1/3 series, Portishead's Dummy features extensive background information on the production of Portishead's 1994 debut, original research and interviews, and in-depth critical analysis of the music and its place in the lives of its listeners.
Also: WW2 bombing raids, vampires in New York, pole-dancing, international espionage, inner-city riots, burning instruments, and much, much more.
An album which distilled a genre from the musical, cultural, and social ether, Portishead's Dummy was such a complete artistic achievement that its ubiquitous successes threatened to exhaust its own potential. RJ Wheaton offers an imagistic, in-depth investigation of Dummy that imitates the cumulative structure of the album itself, piecing together portraits and interviews, impressions of time and place, cultural criticism, and a thorough exploration of the music itself.
The book focuses both on the creation and production of Dummy and the reception and response it engendered. How did so many people, collectively, made a quintessential headphone album into a nightclub album? How did they turn the product of a niche local scene into an international success? With fresh input from Portishead sound engineer Dave McDonald and collaborator Tim Saul, coupled with extensive research, this is the compelling story of how an innovative, experimental album became the iconic sound for the better part of a decade – and an aesthetic template for the experience of music in the digital age.
ISBN: 9781441194497 | published October 20th, 2011 | 208 pages, paperback
- An excerpt on the 33 1/3 blog about the extreme use of hip-hop sampling production techniques on Dummy
- Another 33 1/3 blog excerpt on the deliberate imperfections in the album
- An annotated passage on the origin of classic hip-hop 808 bass sound, at Genius.com
About the 33 1/3 Series
33 1/3 is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 60 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike.
It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom Exile on Main Street or Electric Ladyland are as significant and worthy of study as The Catcher in the Rye or Middlemarch…The series, which now comprises 29 titles with more in the works, is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration--The New York Times Book Review, 2006
A growing Alexandria of rock criticism - Los Angeles Times, 2008
Ideal for the rock geek who thinks liner notes just aren’t enough--Rolling Stone
One of the coolest publishing imprints on the planet--Bookslut
These are for the insane collectors out there who appreciate fantastic design, well-executed thinking, and things that make your house look cool. Each volume in this series takes a seminal album and breaks it down in startling minutiae. We love these. We are huge nerds.—Vice
A brilliant series…each one a word of real love—NME (UK)
Passionate, obsessive, and smart—Nylon
Religious tracts for the nock ‘n’ roll faithful—Uncut (UK)
For those of you who really like to know everything there is to know about an album, you’d do well to check out Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books.”—Pitchfork
For more information on the series and on individual titles in the series, check out the series blog 333sound.com.