Portrait of an Aging Artist
Tricky is not a new name in the music world. After some early work with Massive Attack in his formative years, Tricky released his solo debut almost 20 years ago. He’s viewed as one of the earliest progenitors of trip-hop in the UK and is widely respected as a musician and producer. False Idols is Tricky’s tenth studio album, an effort that he believes has surpassed his critically acclaimed debut. So would it be considered blasphemous to say that False Idols is boring? If so, sorry, but it’s pretty boring.
“Somebody’s Sins” opens the album on a note that’s off-putting, to say the least. Here, Tricky borrows the opening words of Patti Smith’s classic album, Horses: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” It’s a great piece of lyrical wit, but it was even greater when it was original poetry. While it’s obvious that sampling has long been an important part of hip-hop and all its sub-genres, this instance seems to be just the kind of blasphemy that should be avoided when writing about what should be another classic album.
Creative beats and deep bass drive the whole album from start to finish, fleshed out by a variety of instrumental accompanying lines. From electric guitars to moody synthesizers to organic flutes, there’s plenty of sonic variety to be heard. These tracks set the stage for Tricky and his guest vocalists to sing or rap them into a kind of trance/R&B hybrid. It’s easy to appreciate, but difficult to really enjoy.
False Idols has its moments, like any album. “Bonnie & Clyde” is probably the strongest track of the bunch, a pretty soulful crime ballad built on solid break-beats and a catchy guitar hook. The rest of the album, sadly, is a little flat. Tricky and his grooves are smooth enough, but the album fails to really go anywhere. It’s hard to imagine anyone but a die-hard Tricky fan or a complete novice to trip-hop coming back for a second listen.This is an album that might have been great had it been made in a different time, but today it lacks something. It sounds like Tricky is too involved with his own aesthetic to see that his record suffers from a fatal lack of passion.