Portishead is a darker album than the debut, with less organic textures. The group worked differently this time, often creating their own pieces of music to sample, then working them up into songs. The band explained this as trying to differentiate themselves from the hordes of imitators that followed in the wake of Dummy. Significantly, Beth Gibbons’ voice is often rougher; her pure vocals on Dummy were gorgeous, but there’s a bite and a sass in her vocals on Portishead where it sounds like she’s aiming for an Eartha Kitt vibe. Opening track ‘Cowboys’ is perhaps the most extreme example of the shift in sound; Gibbons spits out the lyrics in a way she didn’t on the debut, juxtaposed against scratching turntables and a dry rhythm.
‘All Mine’ was the first single, and it’s probably the most accessible piece on the album, like the theme for a temptress in a dark movie. ‘Over’ sets Gibbons’ vocal against Adrian Utley’s echoing guitar, before the propulsive rhythm sets in, while the lighter ‘Humming’ and its theremin would have fit comfortably onto Dummy.
It’s not as immediate as Dummy, but if you liked Portishead’s debut it’s worth spending time with their sophomore effort as well.