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Tricky – False Idols

Nicola Sloan


Tricky is back with his ninth album, released on his own, recently launched record label False Idols. The album, also entitled False Idols, has been heralded to be a return to the style of his critically acclaimed debut album Maxinquaye, released in 1995.

Bristol-born Tricky is known for his dark, moody and layered sound as well as his distinctive half-whispered, half-sang vocals, often layered beneath those of another singer. For much of this album Tricky lurks in the background like an omnipotent presence while his guest vocalists do their thing.

The album opens with the bass heavy thump of Somebody’s Sins. The laid back vocals of Francesca Belmonte, who features on several tracks on this album, sing the defiant words “Jesus died for someone’s sins but not mine”, while Tricky whispers underneath in unison. Following track Nothing Matters is more up-tempo and lively, while Valentine, in which Tricky rasps about wooing a single mother who lives in a tower block, is a definite album highlight with its prismatic tribal drums and guest vocals from none other than Alison Goldfrapp.

Parenthesis is an effective, punchy fusion of rock and hip hop, featuring the wailing vocals of The Antler’s Peter Silberman sandwiched between grinding guitar riffs. Lead single Nothing’s Changed is another album highlight with its melancholy strings and the grey sadness of the lyrics, “Nothing’s changed, I still feel the same”. Sonically, much of the album is in a similar vein; a trail of dark, grey moodscapes, which offer nothing in the way of resolution, nothing in the way of relief.

Mysticism also weaves its way throughout the album, with the references to Jesus, and comes particularly to the fore in We Don’t Die, another Tricky/Belmonte track, in which the protagonist asserts a belief in the afterlife over a hypnotic bassline and thumping drop beats.

With its rumbling bassline and percussive thunderclaps, Does It is like a thunderstorm which never ultimately builds to a head, which illustrates how this can be a frustrating album. So many good ideas, so many good sounds, but often leading nowhere.

The similarity to Maxinquaye is noted but undoubtedly this album is more mellow with darker, richer sounds. But there’s often the sense that the songs never really go anywhere; there’s a lot of tension on this album but no release, and too much of this can be frustrating for the listener. And at fifteen songs in length, it’s a little too long. But then I sense that Tricky wouldn’t care what I thought; he probably doesn’t care what very many people think in fact; he has a twenty year career, a devoted fanbase, his own record label and an iconic album under his belt, as well as the fact he’s something of a national treasure. So there you go.