Angels With Dirty Faces
Tricky always seems to stay one step ahead of the game. No sooner did he thrill people with his work with Massive Attack than he helped define trip-hop with his brilliant 1994 debut, Maxinquaye. And no sooner did he become an instant darling than he ran away from his own identity with his Nearly God project, a dense moody piece that made Maxinquaye seem like pop fluff by comparison. And then came Pre-Millennium Tension, a wispy piece that again was nothing like the previous work. Along the way, he maintains his authenticity, even while going Hollywood with his almost anonymous bit part in The Fifth Element.
Well, he’s at it again, and if there’s any unifying thread that ties his work together, Angels With Dirty Faces shows that Tricky continually handles the delicate balancing act of trip-hop with grace and ease. His albums don’t feature songs so much as meditations, and yet he keeps them just as gritty as a hip-hop rhyme. They really are trippy and hip-hop at the same time. His sense of atmosphere may be dark and brooding at times, but he intrigues nevertheless. Take his first single, “Broken Homes,” which gets plenty of notice simply by his “duet” with equally brilliant fellow Brit, Polly Jean Harvey. If I didn’t know any better, it’s a dig at, among other things, O.J. of all people. Introduced with a gospel burst by the Sisters-n-Brothers Choir, the song chants, “Those men will break your bones, don’t know how to build stable homes.” Or, as Tricky observes, “Alive is pain, murder is fame. And if you’re famous you may get acquitted if you did it.” And Polly Jean is so soulful you’re wondering if you’re listening to Alison Moyet or Annie Lennox. Certainly, Tricky’s self-aware, if not self-obsessed, pondering what all this new-found fame means for himself and other artists getting sucked into the current void. “Forget the champagne at the bar you need A&R,” he says in “6 Minutes.” “Is this making music or money? I can’t make my mind up. They think they’re safe because they’re signed up. You’re under contracts that breaks those backs… “
Tricky remains a true gem in the trip-hop world, so concerned about being pigeon-holed or exploited that he keeps fighting to remain relevant and fresh. His mad dash is our gain.