photo & text by nacrowe
i first heard BLUE LINES (WILD BUNCH/VIRGIN, 1991) by MASSIVE ATTACK my senior year of high school during my stay in SACRAMENTO post 9/11. i moved from KUWAIT to live with a relative shortly after the attacks. it was abrupt and highly disruptive but i got through it. luckily my relative lived near a local family-owned record store chain called DIMPLE RECORDS (who sadly went out of business in 2019). KUWAIT as a teenager was not much fun. it was a cultural oppressive and intellectually stunting experience. being a student in that environment was awful.
SACRAMENTO in comparison was just an uninformed suburban backwater. unlike KUWAIT, i never felt physically threatened. at school i was more a curiosity than anything else, so i just did my own thing exploring music, film and literature. i got really into POST-PUNK around that time (WIRE, THE CURE, JOY DIVISION, THE FALL, BAUHAUS) and then i discovered TRIP HOP. specifically MASSIVE ATTACK, PORTISHEAD and TRICKY.
it was serendipitous because within a few months i saw TOOL play SACRAMENTO's ARCO ARENA and TRICKY was the opener.
what drew me to MASSIVE ATTACK was their ability to create soundscapes through collage and really play with meter. the music would flow and bend time like REGGAE and then fluidly introduce breakbeats and angelic vocals. it was all unexpected ear candy. i was smitten immediately. subsequent albums have further incorporated an ever-widening breadth of styles and interesting collaborators as well as moods, from the anthemic and jubilant to somber and outright claustrophobic. they somehow sound eclectic without losing any sense of a cohesive identity. they remain one of my favorite groups of any genre.
every subsequent MASSIVE ATTACK record has been a revelation and an innovation from its predecessors. discovering their music really got me through that final year of high school intact. it really encouraged me to keep digging and staying awake and receptive to new sounds and ideas.
in the most unlikely of places: SACRAMENTO. who knew?