Album Reviews | Tricky – False Idols (2013)

Blue LinesI dig trip-hop, a sub-genre of electronica that emerged with Massive Attack‘s seminal 1991 album Blue Lines, which featured the rapping of Tricky, although he was never a member of the group. Trip-hop became hugely popular in the ’90s (moreso overseas than in the States, although it had a tremendous impact on music here, as well), and Tricky rocketed to stardom with his 1995 debut Maxinquaye, a landmark album for the genre that he has by all accounts been unable to successfully top (or touch) with subsequent releases. And so we fast forward to 2013 and the release of False Idols, a comeback album of sorts — after starting out on the major label Island, Tricky moved to well-known indie label Domino, and now he finds himself in an even smaller pond at German electronic label Studio !K7 — that’s pretty damn solid.

MaxinquayeIt doesn’t have nearly the depth of Maxinquaye, and ironically, if Tricky had trimmed the track list from 15 to 12 or 13, the album would be better for it, but there’s a lot to like here, starting with the cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” through the lens of Patti Smith’s opening war cry “Jesus died for someone’s sins but not mine” on Horses (hence the title “Somebody’s Sins”). It sets the tone for the record, with Tricky‘s spare, dark, atmospheric production and his spiritual themes. At times, these tracks don’t feel like they have been fully fleshed out, but this is perhaps an unfair criticism — it was likely intentional on Tricky‘s part that False Idols isn’t nearly as dense as Maxinquaye, but that doesn’t make it any less uninteresting, relatively speaking. Even though he’s capable of a lot more, there are a number of really strong tracks like “Is That Your Life” and “We Don’t Die,” the former of which is one of my very favorite tunes of 2013.

The end result is a good album though, and from an artist that wandered off the beaten path long ago, this is a more than welcome development.

Summary
False Idols finds trip-hop god Tricky back in fighting form for the first time in years; it's a well-produced effort containing several standout tracks.
Good
  • Smooth and polished; this may not be as disturbing and brilliant as Maxinquaye, but it's arguably more fun
  • Some of these tracks (namely "Is That Your Life") are top-drawer, and deserve to be in the conversation about Tricky's best tunes
  • Even on the songs that fall short of Tricky's best work, it's evident why he wanted to explore them
  • Tricky's ability to fashion an interesting electronic beat is simply uncanny
  • Not much dynamic range compression
Bad
  • Some tracks feel underwritten
  • There are too many songs here; if Tricky had trimmed some of the fat, the best tracks would stand out more
  • Even at 45 minutes, the album feels long
7.5
Good
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