Massive Attack - "The Spoils" ft. Hope Sandoval (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

22 August 2016

"The Spoils" classicist leanings prove that Massive Attack don't need to chase fads in order to create stirring and uniquely powerful music.

Tanner Smith: Two nocturnal 1990s icons team up for a spare, cinematic ballad that offers no surprises. “The Spoils” is immaculately constructed, featuring an understated, plaintive vocal performance from Hope Sandoval (who fronts the spectral Mazzy Star) and rich granular details that come from years of making records. The song’s beautiful, string-laden chorus feels like a sad, distant, and dying callback to the group’s incredible Blue Lines classic “Unfinished Sympathy”. But where “Unfinished Sympathy” captured the ambiguous rush of love, “The Spoils” details its fall into the abyss. “The Spoils” classicist leanings prove that Massive Attack don’t need to chase fads in order to create stirring and uniquely powerful music. [8/10]

Max Totsky: Massive Attack are one of those groups that, despite a decades worth of less than stellar material, are certainly due for a renaissance considering how ahead of their time their “trip hop” aesthetic was in their prime. If any big ‘90s act are truly adaptable to today’s spectrum of relevance, it might be Massive Attack. This year’s four-track Ritual Spirit EP marked their most exciting new direction since 1998, and they’ve follow that up with “The Spoils”, a six-minute slow burner that tones down the grittier disposition of January’s comeback for something a lot more in line with their iconically dazzling single “Teardrop”. However, unlike that classic, “The Spoils” is a lot more underwhelming, spending an excessive amount of time going absolutely nowhere and, when it’s finished, you don’t feel transported as much as you feel slightly bored. As pleasant as it is to gaze at orchestration this elegant, there needs to be a bit more direction and force in order to play to Massive Attack’s strengths. [9/10]

Andrew Paschal: Any Hope Sandoval feature is a welcome one in my book. This track replaces the creepy allure of previous collaboration “Paradise Circus” with a mournful, enveloping fog. The song eventually becomes a bit plodding and mostly concludes in the same place it began, but it’s elegantly done nonetheless. As for the video, watching Cate Blanchett first turned into a hollow mannequin and then gradually reduced into the simplest, barest outline of a human figure, all while staring vacantly and vulnerably ahead, is surprisingly devastating (or then again, maybe not so surprisingly). [7/10]

William Sutton: The Bristol-based trip hop pioneers continue to show why they foster such a fervent fanbase with new track “The Spoils”. Featuring Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, the track perfectly suits her sense of darkness as her dreamy vocals are complemented by a typically minimalist but at the same time rich soundscape of strings, crackling synths and percussion. Like much of their previous output, Massive Attack ooze understated grandeur in their work and the video, which features Cate Blanchett, is equally enthralling in its simplicity as Blanchett’s face is deconstructed until all that is left is a stone bust. [8/10]

Scott Zuppardo: The sultry siren croon of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval careens a sanctimoniously stringed Massive Attack, heavy on the 808 and the heart, a space-laden feast for the eyes and ears. [7/10]

Paul Carr: “The Spoils” is a heartbreakingly fragile song. Hope Sandoval’s vocals are suitably mournful yet tender. Coupled with the minimal beats, there is a real sense that the song could simply blow away at any moment. The stirring orchestration is reminiscent of Radiohead’s recent single “Day Dreaming” and elevates the track to new heights. Amazingly the song manages to sound forlorn and optimistic at the same time. It sounds unmistakably like Massive Attack without sounding like anything they’ve done before. Simply divine. [9/10]

Chris Ingalls: Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval pairs up with Massive Attack for the third time in the past several years, which has the potential to sound like a ‘90s-drenched nostalgia fest. But the atmosphere remains contemporary and forward-facing. Massive Attack’s sonic washes are draped nicely by Sandoval’s melancholic pipes and the whole collaboration feels warm and effortless. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: Massive Attack at their most formulaic, but with a formula this successful, that’s not a bad thing. Intense melancholy, lush strings, and sparse handclaps are staples of the Massive Attack repertoire. It’s Hope Sandoval’s voice, as elusive as the lights and digital masks flickering across Cate Blanchett’s face, that elevates this single. Sleek, dreamy, and ready to serve on the soundtrack of a particularly sexy TV drama, “The Spoils” may not be Massive Attack’s most interesting track (or even their most interesting collaboration with Sandoval), but it showcases everything they do best. [7/10]

Chad Miller: Really nice string arrangement. Massive Attack chooses to bring in the lower end of the section at just the right times which adds a lot of character and emotion to the piece. I don’t think the vocal melody and Sandoval’s voice really fit the song though. They both give off more of a pop vibe compared to the orchestral music. [6/10]

SCORE: 7.56

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