Is it a coincidence that both Portishead and Tricky release new albums this year? Though they both, rightfully, hate the trip hop tag they were lumped with in the 90s, there’s no overlooking timing. As the global economy collapses and Britain’s political future looks bleak, we need their singular salvation.
Since 2003’s Vulnerable Tricky spent his time partying incognito in America. For many susceptible to affectation this could have been ruinous, but Tricky found freedom through overseas anonymity and reconnected with his roots. While Maxinquaye existed beyond time and Pre-Millenium Tension voiced the world’s end-of-the-Millennium fears, Knowle West Boy is essentially a paean to the Bristol district Tricky grew up in. It’s a mish-mash of his punk, ragga, hip-hop and even pop (through a face-rocking cover of Kylie’s Slow) influences being given free reign; disjointed, but compelling.
The past may have seen Tricky unleash paranoia but here his life stories, including teenage pregnancy, break-ups and a beautiful willingness to let acquaintances take equal billing on his own records: a magnanimity that sees an unknown Spanish singer who “isn’t really a singer” on Bacative, have a different universality. It may not be as awe-inspiring as before, but it’s still more interesting than almost anything else around.