Tricky

    Tricky was born in the Knowle West area of Bristol to a Jamaican father and Ghanaian-English mother, called Maxine Quaye, hence the title of his debut, made all the more poignant by the fact she committed suicide when he was just four. He was brought up by his grandmother. As a teenager, he became involved in the Wild Bunch sound system, which would eventually evolve into Massive Attack.

    He was always going to be a star in his own right, however. ‘Maxinquaye’ turned him into one, but it didn’t always sit well with him. In 1996 he released ‘Nearly God’, a kind of unofficial second album that he described with some accuracy, as “a collection of brilliant, incomplete demos”. But it was ‘Pre-Millenium Tension’, released the same year, that was his next big statement, that statement being: “I’m not making another ‘Maxinquaye’. It was a dark and claustrophobic record, a sound befitting the title.

    It was also the start of a process that saw him seemingly trying to alienate fans of ‘Maxinquaye’, with ever spikier and more difficult sounds. 1998’s ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’, named after the 1938 film of the same name about childhood miscreants―a hint perhaps―took things a step further with a sound as menacing as Tricky’s glowering portrait on the artwork. But if it wasn’t always an easy record to listen to, Tricky’s mercurial creativity was there for all to hear, even if it was smothered in layers of black.

    ‘Blowback’ followed in 2001, a star-studded record that included guest appearances by Cyndi Lauper and John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis from Red Hot Chili Peppers. No new ground was broken, but the sound was more ambitious than before. By the time he released ‘Vulnerable’ in 2003 he was living in Los Angeles, hence the brighter, sunnier mood. It is perhaps the forgotten Tricky album, far better than its reception, either critical or commercial, deserved. But there was an undeniable sense that, although ‘Vulnerable’ was a thoroughly solid proposition, the formula had run its course. Tricky seemed to think so: he didn’t release a new album for five years.

    It’s easy to forget that a young Adrian Thaws appeared on three tracks of ‘Blue Lines’, Massive Attack’s 1991 debut 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.

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