Cultural Impact: Massive Attack – ‘Mezzanine’

Cultural Impact is a column looking at musical albums that have found their way into multiple pop-culture mediums (films, tv shows, video games). Hopefully this column teaches you more about the artists and albums behind some new music that you’ve probably heard but don’t know much about.

On April 20, 1998, Massive Attack released their third studio album Mezzanine. (Trivia: MA’s website provided Mezzanine for legal download before its official release and it was one of the first major albums to be released in MP3 format.) After the major success of their debut album, Blue Lines and their follow-up Protection, MA’s Mezzanine was also a critical success. It was certified platinum in the UK, but didn’t achieve the same popularity and sales levels in the US, which is an absolute shame. Although the album sales were lower in the US, tracks off Mezzanine have been used over and over again in different pop-culture mediums.

“Angel” – 6:18 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles/Hinds)

The lead track “Angel” is the most widely used song off the album. It has been used in the films FirewallGo, Flight of the PhoenixStay, Antitrust, Pi, and Snatch. Snatch. is easily the best example of a film using the song. The eerie, pulsing crescendo of the song perfectly parallels an intense moment of the film as Mickey (Brad Pitt) watches the caravan burn with his mother inside.

“Angel” is a song all the more haunting when it compliments a visual—something that was also done in The West Wing episode “Commencement” and in the pilot episode of the CBS drama Person of Interest.

Other uses:
Grimm – episode “Dream”
Luck – episode three (Luck also used Massive Attack’s “Splitting The Atom” as it’s main theme).
Smallville – episode “Rogue”

“Risingson” – 4:58 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles/Reed/Seeger)

While not used for dramatic effect, “Risingson” was used as background for a scene in Abre los ojos (1997), directed by Alejandro Amenábar (The Others) and starring Penelope Cruz.

“Teardrop” – 5:29 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles/Fraser)

Used nearly as much as “Angel,” “Teardrop” is probably the best known song off Mezzanine thanks to being the theme for House M.D.. It was also used in The Simpsons episode “Postcards from the Wedge,” the pilot for the UK show Occupation, the Prison Break episode “Tonight,” and, in what was possibly its earliest use, the Daria episode “Write Where It Hurts.” “Teardrop” is one of the most beautiful songs on the album and more similar to the earlier stylings of Massive Attack’s first two albums.

“Inertia Creeps” – 5:56 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles)

An aptly titled track, “Inertia Creeps” is a song that feels like it is constantly building tension throughout. Because of this, the song has been used in the thriller movies Taking Lives (2004) and Stigmata (1999) as well as in the South Korean film Some (2004).

“Dissolved Girl” – 6:07 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles/Sara Jay/Matt Schwartz)

One of my favorite songs from Massive Attack, “Dissolved Girl,” is another song in which the intensity continues to build. It’s slow, intense, exciting, and constantly evolving all within six minutes. The various parts of the song have been used to match these feelings in The Jackal (1997), The Matrix (1999), and the first trailer for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007).

“Superpredators” (Japanese bonus track) – 5:16 (Del Naja/Marshall/Vowles)

Massive Attack’s “Superpredators” also appears in the opening credits of The Jackal to create the unsettling feel for the intense action film. “Superpredators” is a grinding, loud, and striking bonus track to the album (in Japan only), but became a popularly sought after track thanks to The Jackal.

In the end, Mezzanine continues to have staying power in pop culture, and hopefully in home music collections as well. It’s a rare album that begs the listener to stick through every track. The album is dark, brooding, sad, warm, calm, intense, striking, frantic, and just all kinds of awesome. Vastly different from beginning to end, Mezzanine is a collective mix of so many emotions and styles it’s almost schizophrenically beautiful. If you have only heard individual tracks before, hopefully you’ll pick up the album or give it a listen on Spotify.

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  1. Pingback: Cultural Impact: AC/DC – ‘Back In Black’ | Cultural Transmogrifier Magazine

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