Review Summary: When an album becomes a way of life
"People call me Tricky for particular reason", raps Adrian Thaws (aka Tricky) on the 1991 Massive Attack
release Blue Lines
. And in 7 words, Tricky describes himself perfectly. Wily and impeccably talented, with a bizarre and convoluted production, Tricky kid is consistently given less credit than he deserves as a pioneer in trip-hop. While the term was coined after the DJ Shadow
track "In / Flux" (and his 1996 release, Endtroducing
certainly gave him a strong foothold in the genre), the trip-hop movement took off in Bristol in the early '90s. In addition to Blue Lines, Massive Attack improved upon and then perfected the genre's sound with their subsequent releases, 1995's Protection
and 1998's Mezzanine
, another group out of Bristol, captured audiences with their debut LP, 1994's Dummy
and subsequent release, 1997's Portishead
, but in addition to collaborating with Massive Attack, Tricky was releasing incredible music on his own as well.
"Many Switch in, switch on, switch off", raps Tricky in 'Black Steel' as well as 'Strugglin', and in as few words, Tricky's able to convey a humanity that is absent from his esteemed contemporaries. Adrian Thaws is unstable and insecure; through his lyrically based performances, he is closer to being a traditional hip-hop artist than any other prominent trip-hop man, and listening to what he has to say is much more personal as a result. Paired with his then-girlfriend, Martina Topley-Bird
, who provides the trance-like female vocals the genre is known for, the two have a chemistry that is palpable throughout.
Tricky not only uses Martina's voice with perfection, he selects incredible samples to supplement the album as well. Sampling Portishead's 'Glory Box', he adds his own spin on the beat with 'Hell is Round the Corner', rapping: "My brain thinks bomb-like, So I listen he's a calm type. And as I grow, I grow collective. Before the move sit on the perspective." He also has a keen eye for what sounds good together. In 'Brand New You're Retro' he combines samples from Public Enemy
and Michael Jackson
to get the sound he wants, and has Martina sing a convoluted and mind-bending cover of the former's 'Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos', achieving far more out of the words than could be expected.
There simply are no weak moments on the album, and though parts are grating at first, as it takes time to adjust to Tricky's paranoid view of the world, none are without upside. Tracks like 'Pumpkin' ("I can't breathe and I can't see. Mtv moves too fast, I refuse to understand") are particularly difficult, but once you've come to terms with the way he thinks, a greater appreciation for these tracks in particular emerges. Similarly, just beneath the surface of 'Suffocated Love' lies a beautiful romance that began with the opener 'Overcome'. As easy as it is to gloss over much of the album, reaching an understanding with Thaws is as rewarding a musical experience as any.
Shortly after releasing Maxinquaye, Tricky was angered by the fame he encountered, briefly becoming a shut-in and displaying his more ballistic side in his next two LPs 'Nearly God' and 'Pre-Millenium Tension'. Both have their moments, but neither are as balanced as 'Maxinquaye'. While Tricky's recent resurgence and new direction are improvements upon much of what he did in previous releases, none will be as timeless as his debut. And you should give it a listen.
They wanted me for the army or whatever
Picture me giving a damn I said never