THROWBACK THURSDAY: Massive Attack - Karmacoma (Portishead Experience) [March 1995]

Released this week in 1995 (20 March to be exact), Massive Attack’s Karmacoma single saw trip-hop’s biggest stars align for an all-too-fleeting moment.

Written by the band’s Robert Del Naja (aka 3D) and Tricky, who would go on to record his own version of the track for his debut album Maxinquaye (under the title Overcome), the single release of Karmacoma saw a remix from another up and coming Bristol band, fresh from the Mercury Music Prize-winning Dummy… Portishead.


It was the trip-hop equivalent of the Beatles and Stones coming together, and while the Portishead Experience version of the track didn’t actually see the two groups (and Tricky) share studio time together, the two groups did perform this version of the track once, at a 2005 fundraising gig for victims of the Asian tsunami, held at the Bristol Academy.

Massive Attack returned the favour at the same gig with a rousing rendition of Portishead’s Glory Box.

As to the meaning behind the track itself? As 3D explained to DJ Mag in 1994 (as archived by massiveattack.ie) – “It’s a piss-take between me and Tricky – about me having Italian blood and Tricky having West Indian blood. It’s not about anything in particular… Er, it’s got a lot to do with apathy in relationships and general life. ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, that sort of thing.

“A bit of sex, quirky laziness: I dunno, try and explain your own raps and you end up using words you were trying to avoid in the first place.”

As the track approaches its quarter-century anniversary, here’s hoping that Bristol’s finest may work together again some day.

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