I take Massive Attack to stand for just about everything that was wrong with the nineties, and not just musically. I take Protection to stand for the whole of their recorded output, as a mid point between the dull but worthy previous album, Blue Lines, and the most recent, and simply crap, Mezzanine. Protection is the sound of contemporary Britain at its most complacent, smug and reactionary. It’s the record to which the rave generation loosened their belts as they got steady jobs and the cash started to roll in for their spurious, parasitic existences in the media and fashion, while the corporate clubs got fat on selling a little slice of rebellion to the country’s pampered post-teens and pre-mid-lifers. It’s also the record through which the rest of the country “got” dance music,its more libidinal and excessive urges curbed with the fashionable melancholy of the loft-liver and the apartment-dweller.

It absolutely epitomises the crass complacency which characterises the entire media reaction to the supposed Bristol sound, as a celebration of multi-cultural cross-genre hybridisation. If this was the future of Britain, why was vast swathes of the country still stuck in the past – mashing it up to the hardcore sound in central Scotland, wigging out the same old indie guitar slog in Glasgow and Manchester, or banging away to the post-grunge metal monster across the Midlands? Bristol was always a couple of years behind London’s scene, and characterised most by a wilful retreat into the pastoral and the personal; from Portishead to Movietone. But most of all this is the sound of at least two generations losing their will, not necessarily to rebel, but to _differ_, to disagree, maybe even to destroy when necessary. This was a fucking green light to apathy, a nod to just getting on with your own life, an open door to the end of critique. Politically, Protection mirrors the triumph of Middle England and Blairite political thought. Mortgage, two kids, empty life -but somehow with that Massive Attack record playing, the banal sheen of comtemporary urban experience can be yours, just as the feel-good soundbites of the New Labour machine told us to vote for Tony and every lil thing gonna be all right.

If Massive Attack’s Protection signals the end of dissent and the colonisation of the media and of politics by a middlebrow, middle-of-the-road consensus, so musically its dumbed-up dubbed-down vibes sabotaged our taste. No longer were the sampler and the studio the enemies of musical virtuosity and contemporary musical mores, but they could safely be hooked up to the jargon of authenticity, soul and intelligence. In so doing Protection paves the way for almost all the later monstrosities of the decade; rambling, pretentious and righteously dull records by Goldie, Orbital, Radiohead and the Verve to name but a few.