Tricky, Knowle West Boy

Jess Harvell

By Jess Harvell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Tricky’s new one proves to be (forgive us) tricky.

Critics sometimes grouse that Tricky's excellent '90s albums exhausted the need for more wheezing, highbrow hip-hop menace. Others, confronted with the occasionally cringeworthy genre-hopping of his new-millennium long players, await a return to the sinister boom-bap that made him semi-famous. While closer in overall vibe to the bleakness of records like Pre-Millennium Tension, describing Tricky's new Knowle West Boy makes it read as wonky as it often sounds: The jaunty beats of new wave and Brit pop smothered in lethargic, quasi-goth gloom? Ragga-inflected femme torch-song crooning over distorted, jumpy electro rhythms? Sometimes his one-man mash-ups produce interesting sparks, like when he cranks up dancehall rhythms to jittery indie rock tempos on "Baligaga." Less successful are pop flirtations like his cover of Kylie Minogue's "Slow," which merely mars the dark disco of the original with ugly guitar more appropriate on an old Death In Vegas cut. Neither a return to form nor a wholesale reinvention, Knowle West Boy, with its buzzing rock arrangements haunted by Tricky's trip-hop past, is ultimately as messy and intermittently satisfying as most of the man's 21st-century output.