In the three years since Portishead's debut album Dummy came out, other acts have attempted to co-opt the record's tripped-out, ambient dance-pop sound; thanks to everyone from Morcheeba on, the English band's ultra-stylish atmospherics don't sound as new as they used to. It doesn't help that Portishead's self-titled sophomore record isn't all that stylistically different from its predecessor: As you'd expect, the group's meandering, distant sound is touched by Beth Gibbons' icy, shimmering soprano, as well as subtle scratching, languid beats, and creepy samples chosen to pump up the noirish-film-score vibe. It's a winning formula, to be sure, but the hooks aren't as omnipresent as they were on Dummy's best songs ("Sour Times," "Wandering Star"). Like its predecessor, Portishead coasts on the band's coolly atmospheric, shiver-inducing detachment, but that doesn't do an awful lot to move its sound beyond what we've already heard.
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