Released : 1995
Whatever happens, let’s not fall in love. Love might conquer all but in the process sometimes it conquers you, your nerves in shreds, your mind splintered into a thousand pieces. Was Glory Box a song about love? Yes and no. ‘Gonna give my heart away/Leave it to the other girls to play’ sang Beth Gibbons on it, her resigned voice sounding as if the years of being alone had stretched out forever. ‘I just want to be a woman’ she then pleaded, as if that was completely at odds with any chance of emotional fulfillment.
Gibbons was one part of Bristolian trio Portishead, along with Geoff Barrow, who had worked as a trainee tape operative on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and Adrian Utley, who when the three of them first met was a jazz session guitarist. Their first album Dummy was a record of bleak, brilliant austerity, stripping hip-hop back to it’s absolute bare metal and then adding layers of faded cinematic paranoia and hair shirt soul. Infamously it swam against blokeism and everything else Britpop symbolised, the come down before the ecstacy. Barrow has since reckoned it’s more comparable to Nevermind than Parklife and – of course – he’s right.
Glory Box was it’s closing track, Gibbons as a Femme fatale in torn furs, a harridan chain smoking regrets and mourning an identity she had to lose before it crushed her. Strings from some forties weepie offered a glimpse of romance as perfection, but a shredding guitar punched a hole in the fantasy, first playing the role of bully, then nestling up beside her as the words fell, uncared for, into a void. As desperate, unsettling and hypnotic as the real thing, Glory Box is one of the best song ever written about love – but under no circumstances should you ever call it a love song.