Bullet Boy

3 minute read | Published

Massive Attack


I’ve been listening to Massive Attack since the release of Blue Lines in 1991. I recall it was one of the few non-classical CDs in my father’s collection, and Mezzanine appeared in there as well upon its release in 1998. I have favorites from all albums, but this one may be a bit more obscure to the casual fan. It originally appeared on the soundtrack EP to the 2005 film Bullet Boy.

My musical taste varies widely and is constantly evolving. A large portion - perhaps the majority - is instrumental. However one pattern is clear based on my listening history; when it comes to vocalists I gravitate more toward the female voice and range.

While the founding members of Massive Attack are indisputable, the nucleus has always been Robert “3D” Del Naja - the only member credited on all releases. In terms of vocalists, others have come, gone, and returned throughout the years, notably Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles, and Horace Andy.

In spite of the legitimately excellent vocal chops from these, and other men making appearances, Massive Attack may perhaps have gained the most notoriety for the deft use of female guests vocalists. While I won’t list the entire lineup over the years, a few that stand out to me include Elizabeth Fraser (“Teardrop”), Sinéad O’Connor (“Special Cases”), Martina Topley-Bird (“Babel”), and Madonna covering Marvin Gaye (“I Want You”).

Generally speaking I’m more hot/cold on male vocalists. Sometimes the lyrical content just doesn’t jive for me when combined with the sound of the male voice, but everybody’s personal taste is different. 3D, however, has always been a favorite of mine. Whether he’s trading rhymes with other Wild Bunch cohorts, or quietly brooding alone, his voice has always resonated with me.

Guitar in music is something I enjoy regardless of whether it’s the dominating sound a band revolves around, and Massive Attack’s use of the instrument has always been one of my favorite characteristics of their sound. Be it something heavy to juxtapose subdued vocals (“Angel”), a wailing solo rising out of the mix (“Future Proof”), or more minimal in nature like here on “Bullet Boy” - it’s appearance never fails to impress.

I’m not a fan of using a single genre to classify a band, and Massive Attack is one example where that’s entirely impossible to do. The variety in their sound is evident on the first album, and they’ve built upon that foundation over time to consistently deliver unique and varied music that stands in stark contrast to many other acts comfortable with doing the same thing over and over. Most will agree that they defined the ‘trip hop’ genre, but to me Massive Attack have transcended that single label to something far greater.

Trivia The drum sample used in “Teardrop” is also used on this track.

Blue… everyday
Blue… everyday
Blue… everyday

Bruised from another place
Everything takes grace
And the air’s still warm
From a bullet in the wrong place
You’re still moving, I’m still wounded
From the speed
Never leave so free

I still stare
From the glare
(From the glare)
Of the last stare
(Of the last stare)

Bruised from another place
Everything takes grace
And the air’s still warm