Johnny Cigarettes is a wolf, so TRICKY tells us. Keeping to the canine analogy, SYLVIA PATTERSON thinks the Trickster is anything but the dog's bollocks...


London Kentish Town Forum

There is nothing quite so paranoid as a paranoid man accused of paranoia. “Johnny Cigarettes… what you eatin’?” growls the Trickster, unfeasibly, “Johnny Cigarettes, Johnny Cigarettes… looks like a wolfie, looks like a wolfie.” Pardon? ‘Our’ Johnny Cigarettes is a clean-shaven doyen of scented shirt wear and nothing like “a wolfie” and this outburst of untethered contempt comes 20 minutes into Tricky’s Dark Experience, lasts a good minute and is a very bothered man’s way of saying, “I’m not bothered” about being slapped the injunction of a five out of ten album review for his latest heroin-pop proffering ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’, some of which was deemed, generously, “unlistenable”.

Tricky is meant to be ‘mad’; a real madman wouldn’t know or care that NME existed, never mind stage an almighty, incomprehensible huff over its disapproval in a public arena. Mind you, he’s the kind of fellow who takes time to write ‘songs’ about bastard journos and threatens to lock them in the boot of his car. All this dark business Tricky’s always on about has gone waaaaaay too far into heroin-pop without the pop (Or, er, the heroin – Ed) and that way wheezes the sound of Death. Under a backdrop of flying bits of material the tiny, white-vested frame of the man who proved on Jo Whiley’s show the other week he really is the Darth Vader of pop, is gripping the microphone with white-knuckle aggression, barking bilious phrases over and over again, shaking his head ferociously from side to side like a ferret with its teeth in the neck of a forky-tongued python.

Banks of technology twinkle between at least six musicians but all you can hear is the bark bark bark of Man With Problem and nil groove. Tricky once knew something about soul, however, which is why he’s worked with Martina and here she is now, obliterating his perpetual, grizzly honks by cooing gorgeously the “seemed like the real thing” bit from Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ over a wobbly dub-funk meltdown. It is a great idea, bizarre and brilliant, a bit like the jungle revolution back in the olden days when the fusion ethos stood for endless possibilities of creative guile and lots of bonkers personalities with weirdo eyes and big lives.

Today, it’s about misery, severed heads and big vats of oxen corpuscle. Surely. Whatever it is, the revolutionaries have committed the grand folly of forgetting all about tunes, the lack of which turns revolution to yesterday’s blip in time. No-one’s dancing and no-one’s singing and even the band look bored beatless, slumping through ‘Broken Homes’, ‘Ponderosa’… no old hits, no new spirit, just the relentless pound of technology, the blare of a marvy melodica (apparently) and the welcome sound of Cath Coffey on soul reinforcements, who sounds like Neneh Cherry. “That was hardcore!” shouts someone who has definitely eaten all the drugs.

Gavin the ‘hunk’ from Bush nods his head, passionlessly, while DJ Dave Dorrell ambles around bearing a big grin and the estimation: “The masses will always perceive this music as shite because the masses read the Daily Star every day – they’ll never get it. I wouldn’t even want them to.” Nice one, comrade! Tricky barks on regardless. The band self-combust from sheer inertia and, for a couple of minutes, find their forgotten knees in a Funkadelic wig-skew stylee with a hint of Snoop Dawg and then they go home. And Tricky says, “Thank you very much, good night”, twice.

In this current time of the prog mentality in all its self-reverential glumness, who’d have thought it was the fiery minds of the spook-pop pioneers who fell down the well of their own murksome inner psyche, speaking to no-one but someone they still hate from when they were four or whatever the hell’s going down here.

Sylvia Patterson