There I was in the car on a Friday night, wondering when the right time was to enter the Te Rauparaha Arena to see The Original Wailers (conclusion: I’m not sure there was a right time) and I was chatting with my friend (who I will refer to here as Nik; because I always have before). We were talking about Tricky and I mentioned the album Blowback. It straight away made me nostalgic for the album – I realised in talking it up that I no longer owned it. I even announced, during my talking up of the album, that I would be off to get a copy of it quick-smart (well with haste at any rate).
Part of the nostalgic flash that I felt when name-dropping the album was the fact that it had been the very first album that I had given five stars in a review (for the then-Evening Post – my first ‘serious’ reviewing-gig). And part of the need to access the album again was to wonder if I would still give the album a five-star rating. But really I just wanted to hear it again.
I placed Blowback in the car stereo and instantly I was hooked into it. That brilliant voice on the opening track (could it really be Alanis Morissette? Yes, it still is!) The catchy hook of the second track…
There was a story that Tricky asked to be put in contact with a bunch of bozos; washed-up has-beens and not-cool alt and pop stars (or former pop stars). Supposedly Tricky was going to make them cool – he arrogantly proclaimed he had the Midas Touch. I like that story – even if it isn’t true. The best stories are apocryphal anyway, right?
But maybe there’s some evidence to back it up. Alanis sounds amazing on opener Excess. And, even more impressive, Ed Kowalczyk (from Live – gah!) has never sounded better (admittedly, not hard) on the album’s second track, Evolution Revolution Love.
Tricky was unashamedly making a play for the charts; making a bid to be heard on radio.
He’d done darkness (Maxinquaye) and then (gloriously) overdone darkness (Pre-Millennium Tension). He’d done the guest-vocalist thing already (as Nearly God) but this, his sixth album, was the play for mainstream airplay. I doubt he got much of it. And the album is still, often, deliciously bent – check the cover of Nirvana’s Something in the Way (one of my favourite cuts from the album). It still retains its trickiness (or Tricky-ness).
And there were cameos from people more likely to guest with Tricky (Stephanie McKay, Ambersunshower) in and around the weird and wonderful appearances by members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cyndi Lauper.
Tricky always had a nice line in blurring and blending reggae/dancehall with dub, dance and electro textures. And here he adds the pop-song twist to it all.
Sure a song like Diss Never (We Dig Up History) was never going to be a smash hit; but it’s a very cool song. And check out Tricky’s collaboration with Ms Lauper on Five Days. At this point Cyndi was not up to a lot; she sounds fab (but of course regular readers will know I’m a fan).
Bury the Evidence takes elements of Nine Inch Nails’ and Mike Patton’s ideas of darkness. And with Hawkman – one of the real stars of the Blowback album – Tricky turns this creeping and creepy feel into its own thing.
My original review is irrelevant – though I’d stick with my theme I tried exploring (about Tricky turning the pop song on its ear) – the real point of this post was to say that I’m glad I rediscovered an old favourite.
I don’t even know if Blowback is my favourite album by Tricky (though it contains several of my favourite moments). In fact I’m pretty sure that he has done at least three albums that are superior to this. I see from skimming Metacritic that when the album was released it got about a 3.5-star average with everything from raves (Mixer called it his “most refined sound to date”) to being slammed (Armchair DJ called it “an album full of nothing but dried-up creativity and compromises”). I called it “wonderfully weird” and worthy of a listen. I’d stick with that now. And I’d stick with the five stars too.
But what about you? Are any of you out there fans of this album? Or are you keen to give it a go? If not Blowback, what is your favourite Tricky album?
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