BY ED KING ROCK EXPERT Had my music-listening and drug-taking behaviors not been well established before the advent of Massive Attack and the subsequent solo career of Tricky, my initial thoughts on listening to Tricky’s new album, Knowle West Boy, might run deeper than recalling episodes of cheesy cable spy and con game shows, like USA’s ’90s knockoff, La Femme Nikita, and the more recent AMC series Hustle. Of course the use of trip-hop soundtracks on such shows is an outgrowth of the music’s use in stylish, gritty action films, like Face/Off and Snatch. Those fictional London two-bit cons and thugs, in particular, are all about multi-cultural cross-pollination, harsh urban landscapes, witty asides, and an underlying sense of chill.
As I work to hear this album with the figurative tv turned off, the underlying rhythms and subtly jarring sound collages are pretty cool apart from the image of a wiseass Cockney guy and some modern-day Emma Peel. Chances are, you’ve been listening to this stuff with the tv off for some time. Surely the music of Tricky prepared some of you for the coming of M.I.A. For instance, the insistent “Veronika” and “Baligaga,” from Knowle West Boy, now make sense to these old ears, having come in through the back door. Also, after all these years, a track like “Council Estate” fills in some of the gaps in my musical and drug-taking experiences, making me think that Tricky’s working off ideas first established by The Specials, on their proto-chill second album, More Specials. I can dig that. Frequently, the singing and influx of rock guitar posturing reminds me of Terrence Trent D’Arby, who despite his self-generated bombast put out a couple of cool albums.
Shit, I’ve missed so much over the years that I can’t tell if Tricky’s new album is outdated or ahead of some retro ’90s curve. Somehow, as our Presidential campaign kicks off with a collection of cutting-edge and retro candidates ready to square off, this music sounds more appropriate than it otherwise might.