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Saturday, November 13, 2010

240. "Protection" by Massive Attack


I recently read, in a post on his fascinating and not-totally-unlike-this-one blog 300 Songs, David Lowery passingly describing Massive Attack as "vastly overrated", and I was somewhat taken aback. David Lowery doesn't like Massive Attack? I thought everyone liked Massive Attack. Now, there's no reason, really, for me to actually expect David Lowery to like Massive Attack, and in fact people of a genre-centric mindset might fully expect the dude from Cracker, who might cynically be viewed as an artifact of the grunge and/or Counting Crows/Hootie side of recidivist '90s rawk, wouldn't seem the likeliest of trip-hop fans to begin with. Lowery, though, was one of my earliest musical heroes in his Camper Van Beethoven days partly for being the very antithesis of genre-centrism, a guy who seemed positively gleeful about knocking over genre barriers, setting fire to them, pissing gleefully on the fire and then, I dunno, setting fire to them again while Jonathal Segal fiddled along all Nero-like. But hell, maybe he just finds Tricky irritating or maybe he encountered Massive Attack when their hype had reached shrill proportions whereas I was lucky enough to have first heard them well before they had a stateside record deal. He mentions this in the course of dissing a Virgin Records exec who kinda screwed his band over, and whose credentials included an association with Massive Attack, so there's that. I guess it doesn't matter, but I always find it a bit odd when my musical favorites actively dislike each other, is all.

I think I started playing this song (a long time ago) because I accidentally stumbled across that very cool signature chord change, the switch from a major 7th to a 7th with a suspended 4th, on a guitar, which is not an instrument that one associates with the original. It also caught my fancy because, as the next week or so of the Lightning Rounds will bear out, I like adopting songs that were originally sung by female singers as a way of creating, by definition, covers that force a reevaluation of the original, and as a throwback to the days largely before recorded music when traditional singers felt far less bound to sing songs specifically tied to their own gender. The fact that the lyrics in this song play fast and loose with gender to begin with makes it even better. A long time after I'd started to work on my version, I heard, on a tape of a friend's radio show that sat around for years before I listened to it, another interesting version of the song by a male-fronted rock power trio, but it seemed to get at the song from a completely different angle from the one I felt I was using, so I've continued to try to work it up from time to time.

Personnel: Rex

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