Tricky sure is prolific: in just under two decades of solo output, he has now released ten albums, the latest of which is titled after his real name, Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws. Is this album intended to be a rebirth, as is so often the case when an artist releases a self-tited album deep into his or her career? Doesn’t seem to be. If anything, 2013’s False Idols pulled that trick (pardon the pun) — Tricky named his vanity label at !K7 Records after it, and the record arrived after a three-year absence after the musician parted ways with Domino. That being said, the edge is harder on Adrian Thaws than it was on False Idols, which was relatively smooth, but there are still frequent dips into muzak-y syrup that I wish he’d avoid, since it never yields much of interest.
Tracks like “Gangster Chronicle” (which recalls the bizarre and unforgettable cover of Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” on his first album, 1995’s Maxinquaye) and “Lonnie Listen” are intensely in-your-face though. Meanwhile, some of the takes on cocktail bar music (“I Had a Dream”) are appropriately atmospheric and inspire a weird paranoia, and “Why Don’t You” is a solid rocker, but overall, there’s not a lot here that will keep me coming back. The material just isn’t that exceptional, even if it’s executed well and is extremely professional, with a level of craft that’s crazy high. At least False Idols had a couple killer songs — most notably “Is That Your Life” — while Adrian Thaws just has a few that rise above the pack.
At this point, I don’t think Tricky is interested in making another album as dense and layered Maxinquaye, and while Adrian Thaws is still pretty good, all things considered, it pales compared to his past work, which was truly at the vanguard of ’90s electronica. (In fact, he hates to be considered a trip-hop artist, since it’s a label slapped on the work of artists like Massive Attack and Tricky by critics retroactively. Like grunge, trip-hop is an invention of the media.)