Tricky hasn’t minced words about his latest record, calling it better than his landmark 1995 debut, Maxinquaye. That the singer would knowingly prop up his tenth studio effort in such a way gives False Idols a curious edge, and history has shown that a confident Tricky is one who more often than not lives up to the hype. The only question is how well he’ll live up to his own.
False Idols doesn’t best Tricky’s famed solo debut, but it certainly draws from the source of its inspiration. The record’s 15 tracks make for a moody listen, one that picks from Maxinquaye‘s novel mix of breakbeats, jazzy undertones, cranky guitar, and silky smooth vocals. The mysterious “Somebody’s Sins” opens the album by toying with the title’s theme, riffing on how “Jesus died for someone’s sins, but not mine,” over a dub-influenced backdrop. The record might boast his name, but Tricky once again does his best work in the shadows, preferring to hand lead vocal duties over to the likes of Nneka, Peter Silberman, and Francesca Belmonte, who turn in generous guest spots as Tricky’s low whisper lingers in the ether.
Musically, the record is built in the singer’s mercurial image. His signature is all over the amped discordance of “Bonnie and Clyde”, the sparse gloominess of “If I Only Knew” and the patchy soulfulness of “Is That Your Life”. The atmosphere is bleak, tainted with tales of drugs, failed relationships, and other themes that don’t immediately avail themselves on a quick listen, but False Idols settles in infectiously to its creator’s murky headspace. Ten albums in, the singer proves he still has the juice to keep things interesting, even if he ultimately falls short of his own headstrong expectations.
Essential Tracks: “Somebody’s Sins”, Bonnie and Clyde”, and “Is That Your Life”