Portishead - Third
Critic Score
Based on 26 reviews
2008 Ratings: #3 / 739
Year End Rank: #2
User Score
Based on 410 ratings
2008 Ratings: #2
April 28, 2008 / Release Date
LP / Format
Island / Label
Trip Hop / Genres
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What Portishead has created is the post-modern blues: a manifesto for the new millennium, an appropriate response to a world that’s more fucked-up now than it was when the band went into hibernation.

The Skinny
Third is the most frightening record you'll hear all year, infused with dread and danger at every other turn.
Resident Advisor
Reviewers tend to use the commonplace expression “life affirming” here and there without really weighing their words, but in this case, I can’t think of a more telling and appropriate cliché to describe such a truly genuine work of art.
The Guardian

Portishead's third album is initially more a record to admire than to love, its muscular synthesisers, drum breaks and abrupt endings keeping the tension high. But after several listens, Third's majesty unfurls.

This could have been a witty, self-deprecating disclaimer, warning of typical third album creative bankruptcy. Instead it provides fair warning that Third is the most stunning, stark and superb Portishead album yet.
A.V. Club

Barrow and Utley provide deep spaces for Gibbons' raw emotions to sink into, and nearly every track provides some little sonic goodie midway through as a reward for continued attention after all these years. For once, it's worth the effort.


Third is a complete work of art to fully immerse yourself in, listened to start to finish. It will be a little awkward initially ... After a while, it will become a part of you. History will eventually see it rank on par with the rest of their legendary works.


Experimental rock is often derided as being cerebral -- and this is surely enjoyable on that level, for as many times as Third can be heard it offers no answers, only questions, questions that grow more fascinating each time they're asked -- but what sets Portishead apart is that they make thrillingly human music.

That ‘Third’ exists at all is impressive. That it’s Portishead’s best album yet is little short of miraculous.
As punk’s dumbing down has proven, anyone can make abrasive music, but few can do something new and compelling with apocalyptic heaviness. That Portishead manage to do both 14 years into their recorded career is an unexpected triumph over the darkest clouds that have shaped their art and soul.
Slant Magazine

The decidedly more guitar-driven Third is their most experimental album to date.


The painful longing in her voice emerges from the silent spaces of “Plastic,” and the downright beauty of “The Rip,” an acoustic gem that explodes with an airy beat, reaffirms this band’s uncompromising devotion to the craft that brought them together.

Consequence of Sound

Third works in every way most third albums never can attempt, by retaining the old, embracing the new, and remarking on the present. There’s still some dust here, but it tastes sweet.

Entertainment Weekly

Third is indeed a less immediately accessible effort than Portishead’s more groove-oriented earlier work, but it’s no less gorgeous.

Drowned in Sound

Both ancient and futuristic, a mildewed signal from a more advanced culture that failed to survive the ice age, Third doesn’t make you pay attention to its desolate contours, but rather stare out of the window, creeping panic causing your mind to dart in a million dark directions at once.


This is a record substantially more alive than its eponymous predecessor. Portishead still sound like no-one else, but more importantly they aren’t just sounding like themselves, either: this is an album that occupies its own space, untethered to any of the musical trapping and quagmires of genre that snare so many other artists.


At heart, Third is an album full of contradictions. It's obviously indebted to the '60s, but it still sounds futuristic; it could easily be the work of an entirely different band, yet it still sounds like Portishead; it's home to both their heaviest and most fragile songs yet.

Coke Machine Glow

Third is the best album of the millennium.

Tiny Mix Tapes

Third exists to be listened to, ironically, in places like coffee-shops; the difference between this and past work is that this record might make casual listeners frown over their coffees. Again, that’s probably Portishead’s intent, and taken as such, Third is a carefully rewarding record with enough inspired turns to entertain throughout.

Rolling Stone

Nobody ever listened to Portishead for their sparkling personalities or musical variety. What they're brilliant at is obsessively textured studio dread, and Third is an unexpected yet totally impressive return.

Machine Gun is like the best song ever made AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the best feelings has happened recently and it's the feeling of a record that has sat with you for years, impacting you stronger than it ever has before. This time it's with Portishead's Third, a record that I have still found excellent in past experiences though not as much as their first two which undeniably remain as some of the most highly regarded releases in trip hop and the 90's overall. Now however, the band's introduction to the new century now sneaks up to me as perhaps their ... read more
After more than a decade of silence, Portishead stray away from the now dying trip hop sound into a more electronic, krautrock-inspired sound, and it works! The production is beautiful, Beth Gibbons' vocals are as angelic as ever and it has a lot more variety than their previous effort. Overall, "Third" is probably one of the greatest comeback records I've heard in recent memory!

Fav Tracks: The Rip, Machine Gun, Silence, Hunter, Plastic, We Carry On, Nylon Smile, Threads

Least Fav ... read more
"So Portishead are coming back after a near ten year hiatus? I'm sure they've mellowed over the years, maybe we'll get 'Dummy' version 2".

Cue the intro to 'Machine Gun'.

Maybe not.
This album was difficult for me. The first time I listened to it, I was not impressed. By the fourth time, I started liking the songs more. After ten or so rotations, I found a couple of songs as favorites that did not stand out for me before. The more I played it, the more I liked it, but at such an incremental pace, it would probably take another fifteen hearings to truly enjoy it. Track 1 was good, and 4 (The Rip) is fantastic, but the rest were between a seven to a seven-point-five.

COVER ... read more
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Track List

  1. Silence
  2. Hunter
  3. Nylon Smile
  4. The Rip
  5. Plastic
  6. We Carry On
  7. Deep Water
  8. Machine Gun
  9. Small
  10. Magic Doors
  11. Threads
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