Portishead ~ We Carry On [2⊘⊘8]

I cannot count the number of times I was warned of regrets for inaction, but never reminded that actions themselves could also be rued. That gut hurt, that vulnerability more mental than physical we dolefully feel when we disappoint ourselves and others. We are all human, and therefore fallible, but that is of little consolation when mistakes are made that cannot be retracted or adequately amended, especially when unclear. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …” is of little solace at times like these. And so we roll through this life, picking up bits of damage here and there, some worse than others, but all painfully cumulative, resulting in our bodies and our memories at once both failing and failing to fail us.

“The taste of life,
I can’t describe.
It’s choking on my mind.
Reaching out I can’t believe.
That faith it can’t decide.”

Bristol, England’s Portishead began back in 1994 with their debut album Dummy, an audio film noir masterpiece of breathtaking beauty to those of us enamored of such shadowy mysteries borne of days of yore. The Dick Tracys and the James Bonds, the Alfred Hitchcocks, Perry Masons, and the Rod Serlings, all with their theatric music playing on the reflective heartstrings of innocents and psychopaths. The malaligned and the bedeviled.

Taken from Portishead’s third album, aptly titled Third, the song appears as a love letter to band Silver Apples’ 1968 track ‘Oscillations’ (shared below for comparison and sheer beauty). Album Third, despite being widely heralded, highly influential, and reaching near-mythical status, was downplayed by the band’s own Geoff Barrow. “It’s nice to have people interested in your work but It’s really quiet [sic] boring, Just lots of tea and loops going round and round and round.” This from a band that recorded their second album, the eponymous Portishead, pressed it to vinyl, warped said vinyl, and sampled the result back into the original mix.

On and on I carry on
But underneath my mind
And on and on I tell myself
It’s this I can’t disguise

Truthfully, on Third, Barrow and his bandmates Adrian Utley and Beth Gibbons combine psychedelia, post-punk, electronica, krautrock, folk, and soundtrack music into an indelible blend of simultaneous motion and stillness. It comes across like sheer terror in musical form, and the ever-reclusive Gibbons’ lyrics are the band’s darkest to date, all delivered in her signature ghostly, solemn tone. [avclub.com]

[The] song was originally called ‘Peaches’, which makes sense, I think. The fruits represent the vital and sensuous “taste of life” that makes a mockery of the daily grind through which we force ourselves to carry on. (e.g. the grind of life in general, or maybe the going-through-the-motions of a romance gone stale and inert.) In any case, the cost of carrying on may well be self-deception; the heart knows the truth and bleeds because of it.

~ Anarchitect on songmeanings.com

“Oh can’t you see
Holding on to my heart
I bleed, no place is safe
Can’t you see the taste of life?”



Cover Art “para-sight” © 2023 – disturbedByVoices – All Rights Reserved

11 thoughts on “Portishead ~ We Carry On [2⊘⊘8]

  1. The lyrics of “We Carry On” struck a chord for me personally, as well as society at large. That seems to be what life is all about—a series of carrying-ons, with just enough happiness sprinkled in to give most people hope. The music’s propulsive rhythm, a perfect backdrop for the singer’s haunting, halting voice. And the video…just wow! Both creepy and fascinating. I caught the sign referencing “we are being killed by our shadows.” That, my friend, is so, so true.
    I alway enjoy reading your insights into the video you showcase. You evidently do your homework. 🖤

    1. So well stated. I always appreciate your insights as well. The darkness permeates throughout and insidiously. Some of it not even apparent until the wisdom of later years illuminates its’ impropriety. Thank you so much for the kind words, jai. 🖤💀

      1. It would be nice to be wise AND young but the two aren’t compatible. Such is life.
        You’re welcome, Rann…always. 😊🖤

  2. Nice to see some Portishead love. I agree with the prior comment. So much time is erroneously spent in youth trying to be smarter, so-called wiser than the older generations that some obsess over it and fail to live their lives in their times and moments when it counts far more than trying to match wits with a generation that doesn’t necessarily get you in full. Exercises in futility, since as the younger gen, you haven’t lived anywhere near the amount of time to justify your arrogance toward the elders. Just like the elders can direct, guide, suggest and hope to steer toward a path of hope, forgetting all the steps they themselves had to take to get there first.

    1. Agreed, jai has a gift for insight and a gently strong way with words. If you enjoy dark poetry and stories, you should check out her blog — I love it (https://jaidai23.com). Bless those that learn through failure, but bless more those that can learn through experiential sharing alone, those are the rare ones. I very much hope Portishead decides to release a fourth album, but if they don’t, I will be content to continue to share their already amazing works, of which there is thankfully quite a lot. Thank you for sharing insight too. 💀

  3. Although “Dummy” gets a lot of the attention which is warranted for a myriad of reasons…”Third” in my not so humble opinion is the best that Portishead has to offer. The video for “We Carry On” is incredible too. For some reason this album and “Pre Millennium Tension” by Tricky compliment each other well.

    1. Agreed. The music is infinitely darker with more offsetting industrial noise that serves to deepen the menacing waters Beth croons within. Songs like The Rip and Machine Gun come to mind in particular.

      1. The Rip is so damn good, Machine Gun would blast in the back of the warehouse when I worked at Ibanez too. Beth’s voice is so vulnerable sounding on that record

  4. I love Portishead but only have their first CD. I truly need to explore more of their music. It seems I forget about them, then a few times a year I’ll pull the CD out and listen.

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