The publicity materials that came with Tricky’s latest album make a lot of grandiose statements, naming it a worthy heir to the nigh-legendary Maxinquaye and using superlatives like “world-changing.”
Believe the hype.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse, more multi-leveled, more interesting, and more entertaining album than Blowback. Period. Not this week, not this year – period. I’ve only had the album a week at this writing, and I almost want to wait longer to review it, because I keep discovering new levels to it with every listen. For example, it’s only in listening to it while writing these words that I’ve noticed how infectiously danceable “Over Me” is – I’d previously only noticed its more somber foreground elements. Little surprises like that keep popping up, and I fear that in another week, I’d have completely different points I’d want to cover (though I can’t imagine that I’d be using anything but the nicest adjectives in describing it – words like “visionary,” “genius,” and “incredible” simply roll off the keyboard seemingly of their own accord while this album spins).
So, as briefly as possible: Tricky teams up with a number of diverse collaborators to deliver an album that would almost feel like a compilation if it weren’t so cohesive, a record that has more twists and turns than your average roller coaster, yet is twice as interesting, intelligent, and entertaining as any mere amusement park ride. The choices of covers, alone, speak leaps and bounds to the creative energy of Blowback. There’s a super-funky cover of the theme from TV’s Wonder Woman (with bass and guitar from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and John Frusciante), taking that familiar melody and setting completely new lyrics to it, making it work beyond any expectations. Tricky also tackles Nirvana’s “Something in the Way,” turning it into a strange trip-hop dirge, with burbling electronics keeping the track from falling into a pit of despair.
Elsewhere, Cyndi Lauper adds her distinctive vocals to the darkly beautiful “Five Days,” and Jamaican vocalist Hawkman (who bears an uncanny vocal resemblance to Shaggy) is all over the record, singing and chatting on near half the songs (including trading verses with Live’s Ed Kowalczyk on the haunting first single, “Evolution Revolution Love”). “Girls,” which features Frusciante and bandmate Anthony Kiedis, marries the Chili Peppers trademark white boy funk-metal to Tricky’s darker, trippier sensibilities.
This is an album so diverse that the tender, pretty “Your Name” (featuring vocalist Ambersunshower, who’s almost as ubiquitous as Hawkman) leads into the dark, urban feel of “Diss Never (Dig Up We History),” and then the atmospheric metal of “Bury The Evidence,” and it all works, it all fits together perfectly, like this was the way it was meant to be, like there’s nothing unusual about mixing things up like this.
But of course, it is unusual, and Blowback is all the better for it. Tricky has created another masterpiece, an album so compelling that you don’t want to use it as simple background music – it demands your full attention, and you give it willingly, because you know that each journey through its 13 tracks is going to reveal some new, hidden gem. 2001 has been a pretty great year for music so far (if you look beyond the radio, that is), but the rest of the year’s going to have to be absolutely spectacular to keep Tricky off the year-end “best” lists (let alone off the top of said lists). Ladies and gentlemen, the bar has officially been raised.