Where do you start with Tricky? How about one of the most important albums of the ’90s. No, not Maxinquaye―we’ll get to that later―but Blue Lines, Massive Attack’s 1991 debut. It’s easy to forget that a young Adrian Thaws appeared on three tracks as Tricky Kid. Listening to the reissue released last year it’s clear that he was an integral part of the record, not a bit player. In itself, it’s an impressive achievement, but it was just the overture, the sound of one of British music’s most prolific talents clearing his pipes.
In 1993, following the release of Blue Lines, Thaw cut a track called ‘Aftermath’ with a singer he’d discovered called Martina Topley-Bird. However, when he played it to the Massive Attack crew, they said no thanks. Undeterred, Thaw pressed up some white labels, on the back of which he got a deal with Island Records. ‘Aftermath’ became the blueprint for Thaw’s 1994 debut album Maxinquaye, a zeitgeist-capturing collision of half-whispered raps, Topley-Bird’s golden vox and dusty hip hop beats paired with sharply chosen samples. It’s so perfectly formed it’s easy to forget it was recorded on the fly: Tricky made much of it up as he went along, and many of the vocals were first takes. Even so, the result was a crystal clear vision. To borrow the opening line from Jon Savage’s review of the 2009 reissue, “Time has not dimmed this extraordinary record.”
Tricky’s new album, False Idols, is the record he’s refused to make throughout his career, a spiritual follow-up to Maxinquaye. “My last two albums, I thought they were good, but I realise now they weren’t,” he says. “But this new album I’ll stand behind every track. I don’t care whether people like it. I’m doing what I want to do, which is what I did with my first record. That’s what made me who I was in the beginning. If people don’t like it, it don’t matter to me because I’m back where I was.” And as far as Tricky is concerned, False Idols is every bit as good as his debut, perhaps even an improvement. “This new record is better than Maxinequaye,” he confirms. “There’s no doubt in my mind.” There will be those who argue different, of course. When a record becomes a landmark, as Maxinquaye did, it’s almost impossible in some people’s minds to top it. However, what’s beyond question is that Tricky is one of British music’s national treasures, a talent who deserves his full recognition alongside the greats. And he’s back with a record to claim those rights.