During the summer of 1996, I became obsessed with Portishead. Dummy had been released two years earlier, so generally speaking, I was late to the game, but in the suburban town where I was about to start high school, I was definitely way ahead of the game. Because when it came to underground music, culture or film, there was no game.
I was just about to turn fifteen and leave all the friends I'd known for nearly a decade to attend the state's largest high school on my own. It was a deeply mopey time. At the same time, I was starting to realize that the music on Top 40 radio made me feel like something was missing, that musically-speaking, there must be more out there. So, I started tuning into the local alt-rock station after school, alone in my room, and that's where I first encountered Portishead's "Sour Times."
Portishead - Sour Times
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I hated this song. I thought it was irritating and abrasive. Singer Beth Gibbons would wail "Nobody loves me/it's true/not like you do" with her '60s jazz influenced vocals and I would get pissed off that I'd have to sit through it for the next three or four minutes. (For some reason I never went as far as actually turning the radio off.) Every time I heard it, I would get angry at it, angry that I had to sit through it, angry that the station's Music Director had poisoned the rotation with this grating, slightly terrifying few minutes of song.