[20] Portishead, ‘Sour Times’

1994 looks dark. Maybe it was dropping out of my Masters and taking coy steps into the record industry in forbidding London. Maybe it was the dawn of clog-footed Britpop. Maybe it was four months of Wet Wet Wet.

Or maybe it was the magnificently maudlin Portishead, introducing a refined and bleak take on the Massive Attack template, woefully misplaced on the coffee table yet a mainstay there all the same. It may boast gnomic lyrics, but ‘Sour Times’ is so steeped in woe-is-me and chilly zithers that it seems pretty clear where Beth Gibbons’ head’s at. Still, while the desperate “Nobody loves me” might come on like a tiresome whinge, it’s immediately undercut by “… not like you do”. Relief! She does have someone after all! Not that it sounds like a bed of roses. “After time, the bitter taste… Scattered seed, buried lives…”

Dummy’s a beast of an album, as I told Junior. She mulled it over, mesmerised by the sleeve. “Is it a beast? Is it scary?” Well, yes, it is a bit; it’s not one for the fragile listener. I wondered whether she liked the song and she murmured, “I don’t know.”