Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: False Idols
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
I still think of Blowback as a legitimate stunner, one of the most underrated and wonderfully unique pop albums ever made. But there’s no denying what happened to Tricky after that release. Surprisingly enough, my praise for Blowback couldn’t save it from a catastrophic demise. Not only did it fail to achieve Tricky’s singular goal with the effort— to get radio play and move units—but as far as I could tell, nearly all his fans washed their hands of him.
What better way to create buzz for your album than to compare it to your debut when your debut is arguably one of the greatest of all time? Tricky has stated that his new record, False Idols (whose namesake is his new label) is a better record than Maxinquaye, his seminal mid-’90s trip-hop opus. Is Tricky right? Simply, no. Is he onto something? Not even close.
Tricky's seminal debut, Maxinquaye, was released 18 years ago, but he's been trying to escape it and what he decries as its "coffee-table album" status ever since. Finally, with this 10th album, he's returned to similar territory. It begins with a version of the Van Morrison track with which Patti Smith opens Horses – a slick, nightmarish Gloria retitled Somebody's Sins.
Patti Smith opened her legendary Horses album with the line: "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." Tricky's debut on his newly minted False Idols imprint leads off with the same lyrics, the deadpan delivery nearly echoing Smith's. Only time will tell whether False Idols will become equally legendary, yet it's arguably the trip-hop innovator's best work since Maxinquaye. While it's undeniable that the soul of Tricky's seminal debut is reflected here, the songs presented are deeper, more mature and self-reflective — dark shadows hide behind every beat.
Review Summary: One of Tricky's finest albums since the '90s. While discussing the musical direction that would be taken in his latest album, Tricky confessed that False Idols wouldn't be so much a progression in sound, as it would be a regression to his roots. In other words, rather than following along the increasingly erratic path he's taken since Blowback, Tricky, now a trip-hop legend who feels as if he's been “lost for ages,” has decided to travel back in time and reconnect with the clever visionary that composed 1995's Maxinquaye.
Tricky has found himself in a rather tenuous position as an artist for quite a while now. After bursting onto the music scene in the early days of Massive Attack, and releasing his seminal solo albums Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension, expectations have always been high for the downtempo Bristol musician. Though with each successive underwhelming effort throughout the late 90?s-early 00?s, fans have routinely turned their collective backs on the trip-hop alchemist, while still holding out for a late-period return to form.
Finished with his recording obligations with Domino, Tricky sounds refreshingly relaxed and grounded for his 2013 release False Idols. Two decades after the release of his breakout release, Maxinquaye, an album that skyrocketed the ripe 18-year-old into the limelight and the public eye, he takes issue with the concept of celebrity. Being that trip-hop has fallen in and out of fashion, Tricky's musical (and acting) career has seen extreme ups and downs, so he has first-hand experience with the trappings of fame.
I wouldn't blame Tricky if he was sick of hearing about the 1990s. It's the decade where he set up his presence, released his defining works, and then noisily tried to escape. That he spent the last dozen years of his career stumbling into the kind of modern rock/indie pop territory that didn't mesh well with his early aesthetic says something about how definitive (and potentially imprisoning) his fame-making sound was.
"Nothing's changed," Tricky moans on, um, "Nothing's Changed." Indeed. Ten albums and 18 years after his still-amazing debut, Maxinquaye, the greatest boning-someone-you're-maybe-not-supposed-to-bone album ever, his catalog is mostly the sound of inspiration struggling for context. False Idols is vintage Tricky, which means it could slot in at around 1997 – the melodies are spare, the beats spacey, the vibe dark.
R.E.M., U2, Weezer... there is a huge list of artists who were consistently outstanding throughout most of the '90s (yes, Pop was great) but whose output declined into what can generously be described as patchy. By varying gradients their waning tended to be successive, slipping album-by-album..
Tricky hasn’t minced words about his latest record, calling it better than his landmark 1995 debut, Maxinquaye. That the singer would knowingly prop up his tenth studio effort in such a way gives False Idols a curious edge, and history has shown that a confident Tricky is one who more often than not lives up to the hype. The only question is how well he’ll live up to his own.
Tricky says, “[False Idols] is about me finding myself again … [bringing me] back to my natural instincts," in a much-cited interview with Primary Talent. He goes on to say, “musically it is a better album,” referencing his incomparable debut, Maxinquaye. Many reviewers are quoting this interview for gospel, but it’s a hard sell after the first couple of listens.