Tricky : Blowback

Trip-hop's Lazarus experiences collaborative-heavy rebirth. Pain involved

So, this is the ‘real’ Tricky, then; the one nasty former label Island didn’t want you to see. It’s Tricky uncovered; emotionally unplugged, with raw honesty and the naked, sensual Truth fizzing from its multifarious grooves like exposed wires.

Tricky has not only found a new home in Epitaph Records, you see, he’s found The Light; a discovery prompted by the diagnosis of a rare disease (treatable, apparently, through a change of diet) that has allowed the former Prince of Darkness to shed the shackles of rage that bound previous albums ‘Juxtapose’ and ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’, thus heralding forth the dawning of an anger-free renaissance. Or that, at least, was the plan. Yet the first thing that strikes you about Tricky’s sixth album is how, despite the size of the project – the collaborators, the much-trumpeted ‘new directions’, the very fact that this is the new Tricky album, fergawdsakes – it manages to sound so underwhelming.

The primary problem is the all-star contributors the former trip-hop avatar has drafted in. Not so much the cohorts themselves, but their sheer numbers. Indeed, by the time fourth song ‘Girls’ – a Red Hot Chili Peppers-penned strut through snoozesome rap-rock territory – lurches into view, we’ve already been exposed to the golden tonsils of Alanis Morissette, tiresome New Age chanteuse Ambersunshower, Jamaican toaster Hawkman and Live singer Ed Kowalczyk; a fact that suggests they’re less carefully chosen conduits for Tricky’s slippery muse, and more market-friendly gimmicks, novelties that will afford his selective ramblings a wider audience.

That’s not to say Tricky has forgotten his old tricks, mind. Superb opener ‘Excess’,

for example, matches vicious guitar hooks and paranoid samples with his familiar, murkily cerebral word play ([I]”I believe in people lying/I believe in people dying”[/I]).

The entirely unexpected ‘Wonder Woman’,

on the other hand, is the most ready

example of his firebrand spirit, a TV show-sampling, rapping delight, that almost sounds – gulp – happy.

Yet elsewhere, this newfound vivacity takes a backseat to the relentless tug of the ordinary, the lukewarm mainstream replacing the rivers of inspiration that coursed throughout debut ‘Maxinquaye’ and have ebbed and flowed ever since. Tricky’s still alive, then. But it’s going to take more than ‘Blowback’ to make him kick again.

Sarah Dempster