Tricky - False Idols - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Tricky - False Idols

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2013-05-27

Tricky's new album has been touted as a sequel of sorts to his legendary debut, Maxinquaye. You can see why. Many tracks have the same loping, stoned paranoiac vibe which Tricky all but patented on that record. Since this is Tricky's 10th album in a career during which he's often seemed to be teetering on the brink of either retirement or some kind of ugly artistic meltdown, only appearing to achieve a degree of equilibrium on recent releases, perhaps now is a fitting time for this battered survivor and occasional Beyonce festival set guest to take a look back at his legacy.

 

However, False Idols also seems to be a chance for its maker to tip the hat to some musical loves and influences. First track 'Somebody's Sins' consists of a repeated incantation of the thrillingly blasphemous opening words to Patti Smith's career-making 'Gloria', delivered over a skeletal piano and drum backing. This track and several others have a moody, clanking sound reminiscent of mid-80s Depeche Mode. I half expected Dave Gahan's unmistakable, bleak groan to rise up during the appropriately Mode-titled 'We Don't Die'.

 

The alt-synth 80s-referencing reaches it apex on the excellent 'Hey Love', which samples 'Ghosts'. Japan's peerless work of spooked existential angst. By contrast, 'I'm Ready's fragile piano feels straight off a John Cage composition. However, no matter what the influences are, False Idols always sounds like classic Tricky, full of mumbled threats, bittersweet female vocals (contributions this time come from Francesca Belmonte, Fifi Rong and Nneka) and icy menace.

 

The record deviates from this template on the piano-led 'Nothing Matters', a gospel-flecked number with a powerhouse chorus which almost sounds like Tricky's got an eye on the soul-pop market currently owned by Adele and Emeli Sande, although the result is far, far better than anything those two have produced, obviously. Other standout tracks include 'Parenthesis', which moves from near-operatic vocals to crunching Led Zep riffs; the down-tempo orchestral chill and trip hop vibes of 'Nothing's Changed', and 'Valentine', a cover of sorts of show-tune 'My Funny Valentine', which Tricky has said is inspired by his long-over relationship with Bjork. It's given a typical Tricky twist, as he whispers about single mums and white trash over tribal drums and cold piano notes.

 

It's become almost as much of a music journo cliché to compare any new Tricky release to Maxinquaye as it is to compare a new Bowie album to Scary Monsters. Tricky himself set the cat amongst the pigeons by saying he thinks False Idols is better than his debut. It's hard to say for sure if that's true, but this record certainly lacks the reckless fire and barely-focussed fury of its predecessor, making it a less intense listen.

 

That probably means its creator is a wiser, calmer man these days, and he's definitely making some of the best music of his career. False Idols is slower than 2010's Mixed Race, more downbeat and thoughtful, but the soundworld it creates draws one in and hold the attention. It feels like a record set in the smoky bars and leafy streets of Paris, Tricky's current home. It could even work as a soundtrack to the unrelentingly bleak, often violent Paris-based cop show Spiral.

It's certainly an album which will stand up to repeat listens. In years to come, maybe new Tricky releases will get compared to Maxinquaye AND False Idols.

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