Lots of people are complaining that Third doesn’t sound like Portishead. These people are smoking crack. In fact, they’re probably trying to smoke crack through their ears, which means the crack smoke is blocking out the music.
I don’t get the complaints of the crack smokers. Third sounds like Portishead. It is filled with the gorgeous richness and depth that made Portishead famous. No, it’s not a repeat of Dummy or Portishead, but it builds upon them. It’s the next logical step in a wonderful progression of music.
Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons, and Adrian Utley are exploring new sounds, and they’re doing it in a way that stays true to the overarching sound of Portishead. There are beats on this album that are unlike anything the band has ever done before. Many of the arrangements possess the same understated complexity as great movie scores by Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann (who composed for Alfred Hitchcock). "Deep Water" is simply Gibbons voice over a ukulele, yet it possesses all of the emotional vulnerability for which Portishead is known (and it even adds a hearty dash of hopefulness).
The only flaw I can find is that the compositions occasionally wander too close to the generic minor-key tension that has become a goth cliché. It’s a flaw that musicians of this calibre should have recognized, but on an album this good, it’s completely forgivable.