Tricky Adrian Thaws

[False Idols; 2014]

Styles: trip-hop, grime, “club music”
Others: Massive Attack, FKA twigs, Mykki Blanco

Maxinquaye is really good, but I’d bet that if you actually dust it off and listen to it, you won’t enjoy it any more or less than Adrian Thaws. In a lot of recent press coverage of Tricky’s new album, there’s a very faintly implied desire for him to have disappeared after Maxinquaye instead of continuing to release similar music at a respectable rate, because the music press operates in accordance with cycles and seasons, and hopes to be able to keep things reasonably fresh from one season to the next. Musicians don’t work that way. One of the best things about Adrian Thaws is its stubborn and unfashionable sensibility.

One of the standout features of this year’s polarizing FKA twigs record was its transparently Tricky-informed sound, most clearly evident on tracks like “Lights On” and “Hours,” which slog along with a distinct swing and atmosphere. FKA twigs is undeniably one of the most fashionable musical icons of 2014, partly because of her frankly personal and emotive trip-hop; twigs seems to avoid generalization of any kind. Tricky’s new songs move in the opposite direction. “Lonnie Listen” constructs an essentially empty caricature of what Tricky would refer to as “club music,” or mainstream hip-hop, and convention-defying Mykki Blanco assists Tricky in deconstructing that very methodology. In fact, at times, Tricky abstracts his own experience so far as to misrepresent generalizations as perspectival in nature, like on “My Palestine Girl.” The latter is a track most will find campy, but the retelling of a geopolitical conflict as a twisted love story works in the low light of Adrian Thaws’ ominous atmosphere. There’s ample evidence to suggest that the title of this record, which is Tricky’s birth name, is deeply and intentionally problematic.

Relatedly, collaborations abound, and most of them work. Grime artist Bella Gotti delivers two rapid and devastating verses, and Francesca Belmonte’s numerous vocal contributions are reminiscent of Martina Topley-Bird’s captivating work on Maxinquaye. Of course, moments of brilliance trade off with creative missteps, like a clumsy cover of Janet Kay’s “Silly Games” featuring Tirzah on vocals as well as an awkwardly direct appeal to revolution on “The Unloved (Skit).” These moments of decreased energy start to sound exhausted in the midst of a collection of otherwise frenetic and often enlightening tracks.

But all you really need to do to know whether or not you’ll like Adrian Thaws is listen to “Why Don’t You.” It’s a rap-rock track with the refrain “Why don’t you/ Go and get fucked” on an album billed as Thaws’ move from the underground into the club scene. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but I think I essentially support his dated brand of revolutionary enthusiasm.

Links: Tricky - False Idols

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