“The big wheel keeps on turning,
On a simple line day by day,
The earth spins on its axis,
One man struggle while another relaxes…”
Spawning a whole new genre – trip hop – Massive Attack’s Blue Lines was released on 8 April 1991.
It’s testament to the pioneering work of Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja, Grant ‘Daddy G’ Marshall and Andrew ‘Mushroom’ Vowles – not to mention collaborative input from the likes of Shara Nelson, Tricky and dub legend Horace Andy – that this debut album still sounds as fresh as it did 27 years ago.
From the grubby atmospherics of opener Safe From Harm through the dub/rap crossover of Five Man Army and stunning soundscape of Unfinished Sympathy, Blue Lines made Bristol the heart of the music world, at least for a short time.
Reviewing the album following the release of a 21st anniversary boxset in 2012, Pitchfork’s Miles Raymer noted how the album influenced so much that followed.
“Listening to Massive Attack’s debut album, Blue Lines, 21 years after its initial release is like reading an old William Gibson novel that describes the then-near future, which is now the present, with unsettling precision,” he wrote.
“Nearly every song offers a sound currently in use in music’s taste-making leading edge. Robert “3D” Del Naja’s chopped-up vocals on the album-opening “Safe From Harm” sound freakishly like the chorus to Kanye et al’s “Mercy” […] The subzero space-reggae beat to “Five Man Army” could easily be a highlight of any number of fashionable rappers’ mixtapes.”
Happy birthday to an album that refuses to age… Massive Attack’s Blue Lines!