An absolute gem.
A cover of an ABBA song by the same name, Portishead’s ‘SOS’ is an indulgent and beautiful yet despairing three and a half minutes. The arrangement of the piece is fairly bare, but in this case less is more. The stripped-back arrangement really does well to highlight Beth Gibbon’s vocals, which are accompanied by just a drum beat and an eerie synthesiser, with another cutting into the mix at intervals to leave you with chills. The original is completely different to this – it is amazing that Portishead has managed to transform this punchy 70s hit into something altogether new in feel.
It remains unclear whether or not the band will make ‘SOS’ an official single or follow it with an album release, but the sheer brilliance of the track has me eager for whatever they do next. Initially featured as part of the soundtrack for Ben Wheatley’s superb dystopian thriller High-Rise, the band is yet to properly release the song, making it initially very hard to find and not publicising it at all. For the first few months after High-Rise, all versions were removed from YouTube by the film’s production company. At Glastonbury, however, the song was played on a screen as part a tribute to the murdered MP Jo Cox. Its haunting nature makes it perfect for capturing the bleak reality of dark situations, as it has in both of its uses so far.
‘SOS’ is available now on YouTube