I never really got into Massive Attack. Actually, to be honest, most of the '90s downtempo/trip-hop stuff always eluded me for one reason or another. It always felt so goofy, so bland, so near-new-age. Perhaps this just was my own association. But after actually enjoying Heligoland I decided it was high time to give their catalog another shot. I chose Mezzanine as a start not because of its critical reception, so much as it's the album I'd always heard at parties, at stores and in cars.
The weird thing I notice straight off the bat when hearing these songs again is the fact I still associate the song with select people: "Risingson" is an old boss, "Teardrop" is an ex-girlfriend, "Angel" is a girl I had weird crush on. Regardless of my initial distaste for Massive Attack's music, the songs themselves are still attached to specific memories in my brain.
These memories probably influence my reception of the songs too much, but taken into account, it's still feasible to separate them from their origins -- I might dislike "Risingson," for instance, because that particular boss was such a dick, so I have to link the song to a new person, place or thing. It's not easy, but it's possible.
What hasn't changed here is the fact Mezzanine still sounds like stoner make-out music to me. It's the Barry White equivalent for people that wear lots of black and don't like sports. It's cheesy on so many levels it's difficult to take seriously, which actually happens to be the key to actually enjoying it.
Mezzanine , you see, is like a B-movie: If you accept the fact you're not going to get anything too exceptional here and just take pleasure in the ride, you'll find a lot more to enjoy. This isn't brooding -- it's goofy. It's not high-concept -- it's pop-art.
This is probably the wrong way to enjoy a band like Massive Attack. Hell, it's probably the wrong way to enjoy most music. Regardless, the active disassociation and application of realistic expectations allowed me to enjoy it. Fact is, if I'd taken the lyrics seriously, I probably have reverted to my original despises for this record -- my associations with full-grown adults with dragon necklaces and spiked rings.
Say what you want about the approach, but it allowed me to finally appreciate and absorb a record that continually seems to influence new artists.