Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor – No Protection

Early in 1995, just a few months after the release of their fantastic second album ProtectionMassive Attack did something rather unusual. With the help of DJ Mad Professor, they released the entire album a second time, this time in the form of dub remixes. The track order is pretty much the same too – the only things missing are Eurochild and the live cover of Light My Fire, both from the second half of the album. So why exactly did this oddity deserve a release of its own?

One good reason would be the minority appeal of dub music. For the uninitiated, dub is rather difficult to define, and all the more so because the vast majority of “dub mixes” which appear on singles are little more than instrumental versions. But listen to this release, and you’ll quickly gain some kind of understanding, even if you can’t define it any better. It typically isn’t full vocal – instead, the main parts of the original are chopped up and liberally sprinkled with post-processing effects such as reverbs, flanges, and delays. Fairly simple pop songs are transformed into ten minute sonic explorations, and the combination of Massive Attack and Mad Professor leads to a heady mix.

As before, it opens with the title track Protection, this time relabelled Radiation Ruling the Nation. This is one of the best tracks on this release, and while it’s definitely not something you’re likely to listen to every day, it’s still an interesting listen, with the insane amounts of reverb percolating Tracey Thorn‘s original vocals.

Bumper Ball Dub (originally Karmacoma) comes next, entirely devoid of vocals but an extremely enjoyable instrumental nonetheless, this time with more of the reggae influences of dub showing themselves. Then the Trinity Dub of Three does lose some of the chilled out beauty of the original, but it still has a certain bizarre charm.

Cool Monsoon (a version of Weather Storm) adds a couple of minutes to the original, but keeps a lot of the key aspects, such as the calm arpeggiated piano parts, and despite some rather bizarre noises turning up in the background, it’s still rather beautiful. Similarly the largely instrumental version of SlyEternal Feedback.

There’s nothing unpleasant here, particularly if you try not to compare them too closely to the originals, although it’s probably fair to say that some work better than others, and Moving Dub (Better Things) is a bit of a mess. The warbling flute of I Spy (Spying Glass) is vaguely reminiscent of early Kraftwerk, and this track also has an unusually rhythmic beat, although with a lot of delay, making this one of the more standout tracks on the album.

Finally, Backward Sucking (Heat Miser) is one of the more discordant tracks, and really bears very little resemblance to the original, so it would be easy to understand if you wanted to argue this was the weak link on the album.

But for all of that, this is a very enjoyable release, and a surprising one at that. Mad Professor continued to work with Massive Attack, and apparently there’s even an unreleased dub version of Mezzanine floating around in the archives, waiting for a potential release one day. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing it.

Perhaps surprisingly, No Protection remains in print and widely available.

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