When last we encountered[B] Adrian Thaws[/B] he appeared locked into a self-destructive cycle of grating subterranean noise, ugly B-boy posturing and journo-punching petulance....


7 / 10 When last we encountered Adrian Thaws he appeared locked into a self-destructive cycle of grating subterranean noise, ugly B-boy posturing and journo-punching petulance. After three albums largely composed of grime-caked, gravel-voiced, tune-shy doggerel, the Olympian peaks of 1994's 'Maxinquaye' seemed lost forever.

But trust Tricky to dodge his own funeral, because 'Juxtapose' is laced with drops of the old stuff. Put it down to guest producers and co-writers, notably Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, but the churning murk has been replaced by some semblance of clarity, structure and melody.

Billed as both a rootsy return to hip-hop and the splendour of 'Maxinquaye', this album is neither - except perhaps in Tricky's mind. But it is precisely this skewed vision which keeps him so compelling, as well as so damnably perverse.

in bow-tied Fun Lovin' Criminals style while a Bowie-esque crooner provides the haunting, rolling hookline. Smootherama.

Elsewhere this cosmetic sense of order begins to fragment and the old, scrambled Tricky peeks through the cracks, but at least the noises are largely inspired and innovative. 'She Said' drapes a sleek, weightless techno-samba around a gritty crime-and-punishment narrative while 'Call Me' suspends a woozy whispering gallery within a humid, ersatz Eastern mantra. 'Hot Like A Sauna' begins "Hell is round the corner", the author sampling himself in a hailstorm of asthmatic rasps and gnarly industro-rock loops. There's a superfluous 'Alt. Version' too, which is hardly alt. at all.

Some listeners may take offence at the X-rated porn fantasies of guest Brit-rapper Mad Dog on 'I Like Girls', even though his ragga chat is pure Smiley Culture, while Tricky's slithering musical backdrop seems to undercut any cartoon sexism with shuffling, dread-filled insecurity. And some kind of redemption seems attainable in final track 'Luv', a stripped-down staccato shanty in which Tricky implores, "I wish I could see love/Where have you been, love".

Whether genius or faker, these are clearly the bruise-toned, broken-backed, heavy-breathing half-tunes that buzz incessantly around inside Tricky's head. His music is 'for real', however distorted his notion of reality may be. He's the Mark E Smith of washed-out industrial trip-hop, spewing garbled but sporadically brilliant verbiage, riding buckled rhythms which sound more like products of obsessive-compulsive mania than of programmed machinery.

So 'Juxtapose' is no 'Maxinquaye', but it is Tricky meeting us halfway. There's plenty to enjoy here, but plenty more for him to build on. Get building.

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