in brief : red hot & blue.
as w/ suede, massive attack is another band that makes me look back, this time to 1998 when they were my favorite group, when i thought them nigh-on untouchable. now, back to 2006 and they've released one proper studio album, 2003's disappointing 100th window.
i keep speaking of massive attack as a "they," though for all intents and purposes "they" are now a "he," viz. robert "3d" del naja. coincidentally, 100th window was the first album to feature del naja on his own, and "live with me," the new material from their forthcoming greatest hits compilation, sees him continue down that path alone.
or not necessarily alone. the strings are likely arranged by longtime collaborator craig armstrong, or someone familiar w/ his work. and once again, an eminent, grey-voiced singer is on board, following in the steps of thorn, fraser, and o'connor, chicago folk/soul cult figure terry callier. what's missing, apart from mushroom and daddy g, is anything one can call a sonic signature, e.g. strings v. samples on "unfinished sympathy," samples v. synths on "protection," synths and doom & gloom piano on "teardrop." twenty seconds into the record, if someone had told you it was massive attack, you could hear it, otherwise it could be any other "chillout" band.
however, credit must go to 3d for choosing terry callier to sing on this record. after hours, grey-voiced callier may be, but his voice is also rich in blues. not since blue lines has a massive attack guest vocalist so lashed into a song. callier begins at a whisper but it's not long before he's howling at the moon w/ a mixture of desire, despair, and a hint of menace. callier's vocal is the sonic signature and it haunts like the best the band has ever offered, certainly earning its place on the record. if 3d has plans for future massive attack records, he'd be wise to ask callier to join the band.