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The other famous trip-hop band from Bristol that helped codify and popularise the genre alongside Massive Attack, Portishead have been rolling around the music scene since 1991. The band consists of the following members:

  • Beth Gibbons - vocals, occasional guitar
  • Geoff Barrow - Record Producer, DJ, sampler, keyboards, drums, multiple instruments
  • Adrian Utley - guitar, bass, keyboards

Dave McDonald is occasionally named their "fourth member", having served as engineer and producer and occasionally contributed instruments on all their albums.

Portishead's famous Signature Style is a combination of heavy breakbeats, dense productions, Utley's distorted guitars, influences from spy film soundtracks, samples, and Gibbons' haunting vocals. Their music is only enhanced by their Film Noir-influenced aesthetics and Surreal Music Videos These elements brought them critical and commercial success right out the gate with their debut Dummy, but ever since they've pursued a harsher, more dissonant Darker and Edgier sound marked by claustrophobia, heavy distortion and industrial influences on Portishead and Third.

They're also infamous for taking a long time to make albums, a trait shared by their fellow Bristolians Massive Attack - they were on a long hiatus between 1999-2005.


  • Dummy (1994)
  • Portishead (1997)
  • Roseland NYC Live (1998) - live album
  • Third (2008)


  • Creepy Child: The girl in the video for "All Mine." Your Mileage May Vary.
  • Darker and Edgier: Portishead and Third. While the lyrics don't get any more melancholy, the sound gets darker (Third's beat was a lot more industrial).
  • Face of the Band: Gibbons.
  • Fake Guest Star: Utley is not officially signed on with the band and is technically a guest contributor on each album, but everyone considers him a full-time member of the group.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The spoken Portuguese at the beginning of "Silence".
  • Gratuitous Panning: All of their videos.
  • Ho Yay: The video for Glory Box features double ho yay - men being affectionate to each other - but the men are all women in drag. EVERYONE in the video is in drag.
  • Last-Note Nightmare - "Silence" ends in, well... silence.
  • Mood Whiplash - Deep Waters in the middle of Third, which is a Hawaiian tune about a girl choosing to face her fears.
    • Glory Box is either a woman asking her husband to be a bit more caring and loving, or a cheating woman tired of cheating man asking the same question. Either way, the lyrics - and music, somewhat - aren't as sad as the rest of the songs on the album.
  • More Dakka: "Machine Gun" uses percussion to audibly apply this effect, though the song itself has nothing to do with the trope.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - They're classified as "trip-hop", but they're more if Nine Inch Nails was a jazz band instead and if Trent Reznor was a middle-aged woman - there's not much rapping going on, compared to Massive Attack.
  • New Sound Album: Portishead and Third.
  • Non-Appearing Title: A favorite trope of theirs.
  • Reclusive Artist: The band are known for being reluctant to do interviews and talk to the press.
  • Sampling: From old spy film soundtracks, soul and jazz singles and, on Portishead, original material created by Barrow and Utley.
  • Signature Song: It's either "Glory Box" (the band's big UK hit) or "Sour Times" (the band's big US rock radio hit).
  • Surreal Music Video: Name one that isn't.
    • All Mine, which is just a little girl lipsynching to the song in a standard opera-house like setting.
  • Tear Jerker: "Roads". It's probably the violins. Also the band allowed it to be used for a video relating to Sophie Lancaster's death, which doesn't exactly make it seem any more cheerful. (Sophie Lancaster being a girl who was beaten to death for being dressed as a goth.)
  • Theremin: Played by Utley on "Mysterons". "Humming" also has a Theremin-ish sound, but that's actually a Moog. Both get used if - and when - they do play live.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Everyone in the video for Glory Box.
  • The Woobie: Beth Gibbons. Whenever you see her sing her face is CONTORTED with sadness, so much so that she looks like one of those greek tragedy masks. It's hard not to feel sorry for Beth, even if you don't know precisely what the reason for her prolonged pain IS.
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