• Record Label: Mercury
  • Release Date: Apr 29, 2008

Universal acclaim - based on 38 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 38
  2. Negative: 1 out of 38
  1. 100
    Third is the most stunning, stark and superb Portishead album yet. [May 2008, p.84]
  2. Third is far and away the best, most punk thing in the Portishead catalog: a deeply transgressive album that bears a passing similarity to its predecessors but leaves most of the baggage behind in favor of a full-blown reset.
  3. 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.
  4. This is the late-night, beat-driven, torpid-languid music of a zillion coffee shops, sure, but with the blood drained out of it, a creepy-crawly, black-and-white-sounding thing that gets under the skin and stays there from the first play
  5. Under The Radar
    Third concludes with a string of stunners that feature sawing cello, improvisatory bursts of horns, and the most cathartic vocal performance Gibbons has ever set to tape, respectively. [Spring 2008, p.79]
  6. There's enough on Third (spaghetti-western guitars, organs, barking effects) to sate those who pine for the late '90s, but gone is the turntable scratching, ostensibly deemed too much of a relic from that decade; in its place are more electronic flourishes, like the cyclic synth-bass loop that softens the second half of "The Rip," a song which is proof positive that Goldfrapp would never exist without Portishead.
  7. Spin
    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. [May 2008, p.93]
  8. Third is a complete work of art to fully immerse yourself in, listened to start to finish.
  9. Here, the sad sounds aren't quite so soothing, but that human element of Portishead gives them a sense of comfort, just as it intensifies their sense of mystery, for it is the flaws--often quite intentional--that give this an unknowable soul and make Third utterly riveting and endlessly absorbing.
  10. That it’s Portishead’s best album yet is little short of miraculous.
  11. 90
    It's hard to leave your comfort zone, especially with unrealistically high expectations, but the band successfully redefines itself without alienating their core audience. Welcome back, guys.
  12. The album is consistently strong from start to finish with enough outstanding material to vault it into classic status right next to "Dummy."
  13. Released today, it instead feels like a staggering transformation and a return to form that was never lost, an ideal adaptation by a group that many people didn't know they needed to hear again.
  14. It's one of the most vital releases I've heard this year, and while I can hear fans of their past work being a bit puzzled, I simply can't imagine anyone not being at least a bit thrilled by it.
  15. Though several doses of this languid, tension-filled music get a tad draining, taken altogether it is a suitable sound for our troubling times, and there's an invigorating mysteriousness.
  16. Third is indeed a less immediately accessible effort than Portishead's more groove-oriented earlier work, but it's no less gorgeous.
  17. 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.
  18. Long awaited comeback from Bristol trip-hop outfit proves worth the wait.
  19. The good news for people who love bad news is that Portishead have gotten better, too.
  20. Third is about the potential for being, not being itself. It’s the base chemistry of the Portishead sound, a compound awaiting reaction. Which is up to the listener to produce, like the lightning that brings the Monster to life.
  21. Never has a pit of despair sounded so inviting.
  22. Pitch-shifting strings punctuate the background like reminders of the cinema of the past, but this Portishead doesn't wink at anything, eschewing style altogether. In our self-referential culture, an album like this is an aberration. Again.
  23. Yet far from being miserable, this is a record substantially more alive than its eponymous predecessor.
  24. Exquisitely detailed, you can well believe that this is an album many years in the making and one with twice those years of pain inscribed in its emotionally wracked songs.
  25. Alternative Press
    Listening to Portishead has always been like floating through a waking dream, but now the sleek edges have atrophied into a dusty chaos, and it's all the more beautiful and perfect for the change. [June 2008, p.136]
  26. Mojo
    Third shows Portishead in the tradition of, say, Fairpoint Convention as much as Massive Attack, and though it might not convert sceptics it is convincing, and occasionally thrilling, demonstration that the wilderness can be a great place to cook up new ideas. [May 2008, p.103]
  27. Portishead's methods are hardly frozen in time. And that evolution is what makes these elaborately layered tracks such a knotty, mesmerizing listen.
  28. Behind these minor tones and detached themes, Third emits a knowing and quiet confidence that communicates the band’s strongly held ideas, especially that of existential ennui.
  29. Vibe
    It's been a long wait, but like reborn armies in the night, Third has the blare of revolution. [June 2008, p.70]
  30. Ten years later, they've managed to capture our paranoid times and sound transcendent as well.
  31. Portishead seem to be playing against intuition at every corner.
  32. Anyone expecting a return to the slick cinemafunk of ’90s Portishead will be taken aback by Third, but though the album never reaches the eureka moments of old, it’s a welcome step into new territory and a more than satisfying downer dose to set against the onset of sunny days and ice cream.
  33. Third is an unexpected yet totally impressive return.
  34. Third is a carefully rewarding record with enough inspired turns to entertain throughout.
  35. Even though not every twisted move they make on Third pays dividends, considering the stakes, consciously fucking with their formula is a bold gamble for which they should be saluted.
  36. Q Magazine
    Third will probably be more admired than listened to and, you suspect, this suits Barrow, just fine. [May 2008, p.131]
  37. 30
    It's groove-deprived and difficult, and not in a particularly inventive way. [May 2008, p.78]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 198 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 14 out of 198
  1. AlanO.
    May 8, 2008
    This is a stunning album! To be frank, I am not a Portishead fan...I recognize their history and had ocasionally bumped into their brand of This is a stunning album! To be frank, I am not a Portishead fan...I recognize their history and had ocasionally bumped into their brand of Trip-Hop back in the day which mostly left me dry. This new album is something different. Fans of Jane Siberry, Stina Nordenstam, David Sylvian, Talk Talk, and Mimi Goese take note. The songs are experimental in nature but infused with warm electronics, etheral background shuffles, and stark, introspective lyrics. I have no idea what their traditional fans will make of this...might be a bit challenging. This is a record you have to get to know, spend time with, and ponder. Some definate reference points: Stina Nordenstam -"This is Stina Nordenstam," "When I was a Boy," - Jane Siberry," and "Soak" - by Mimi Goese. Candidate for album of the year hands down... Full Review »
  2. Apr 28, 2011
    I've listened to this album several times over the past three years and each time I walk away with mixed feelings. On one hand, Beth Gibbons'I've listened to this album several times over the past three years and each time I walk away with mixed feelings. On one hand, Beth Gibbons' wonderfully haunting vocals remain and make my ears happy. On the other hand, this is not the same Portishead that made me fall in love with them all those years ago.

    They've completely abandoned the classic Trip Hop sound that they essentially helped pioneer. Change is not always a bad thing, but I fear they they've ventured so far as to remove themselves from the realm of my tea cup.

    Third is by no means a "bad" album, but it's not a direct evolution of the sound that made Dummy and Self Titled so amazing either. It has moments of greatness, but to me falls flat more often than not. I probably won't ever stop listening to Third, but each time I do I'll wish wish it had been something more.
    Full Review »
  3. MitchellZ.
    May 1, 2008
    Third is not as instantly gratifying as Dummy. The hyper-stylized noir paranoid fantasy is gone. Instead, Third sounds as fractured and Third is not as instantly gratifying as Dummy. The hyper-stylized noir paranoid fantasy is gone. Instead, Third sounds as fractured and threatening as the times it reflects, while pulling up musical references to psychedelia of the 60's. I've only listened to it twice through, and it requires a bit of attention. But the music is astoundingly mesmerizing at times. And it really sets you on edge, with the vocals subdued and other parts sounding like their being played from the back of an empty hall (to good effect). Really worth the wait! Full Review »