For a lot of people, Massive Attack‘s debut Blue Lines (1991) seems to be their definitive album, but for me I think it’s their second, Protection (1994). I’m not sure why – perhaps because it was the album that relaunched Everything But The Girl‘s career, or because the singles were so good. Perhaps because of the nutty No Protection dub remix album, or maybe just because I was there at the time.
Whatever the reasons, Protection, to me, is a very good album indeed. It opens with the title track, in its full eight minute glory. Tracey Thorn‘s vocal and lyrics, always surprisingly powerful, are the perfect complement to Massive Attack‘s enormous backing.
Tricky turns up next, sounding amazing on Karmacoma. If you’re not nodding your head along to this, there has to be something wrong with you. There’s something very confident about their delivery this time around – it’s not as naïve as Blue Lines might have been, but they still sound amazing.
The next guest vocalist is Nicolette, for the third track Three, which although somehow rather impenetrable is also very enjoyable – if nothing else, it helps hold the mood of the album until Weather Storm, a lovely instrumental of the kind that Röyksopp would be trying to recreate a few years down the line.
Returning collaborator Horace Andy turns up next for Spying Glass, probably the most dub tempered track on the album up to now. It closes Side A, and there hasn’t been a single clunker on this half of the collection, which is pretty impressive.
Side B, slightly unusually, is made up of a second collaboration with each of the same artists. Tracey Thorn returns for the lovely Better Things, which could easily fit on any Everything But The Girl album. And Tricky‘s return, on the lively Eurochild, is brilliantly dark and haunting.
Then comes the lead single, which was unpredictably Sly, featuring Nicolette again. Somehow it’s one of the more forgettable tracks on the album despite also being absolutely great – perhaps it just gets a little overshadowed on here by its neighbours.
The penultimate track is the chilling instrumental Heat Miser, with its enormous bass part, and would really close the album perfectly – except for the live cover of Light My Fire which turns up at the end. This has never quite made sense to me – I can see how it would be a live favourite, and Horace Andy is typically brilliant on it, but what a strange way to close an album!
Either way, Protection is a brilliant second album from Massive Attack, and for me it was with this rather than its more popular follow-up Mezzanine (1998) that they ensured their place in history. The collaborations are perfect; the mix of tracks exceptional; and the whole product great – in spite of the slightly strange closing track.
You can still find Protection at all major retailers.