WHEN THERE'S TRUST THERE'LL BE TREATS
WHEN WE FUNK WE'LL HEAR BEATS
Some albums are islands. Even if they leave breadcrumbs hinting at their origins we inevitably lose our way once we hit the water's edge. Despite their tectonic heft, these sorts of sonic landmasses tend not to be touchstones. Oh they're plenty inspirational and copyists abound but the original work floats out there all by its lonesome just the same. There's few better examples of such isolated perfection than Maxinquaye, the 1995 debut from Tricky. Touched by no small madness, there is also grand method to these dozen persistently futuristic salvos, a militaristic image befitting this set, which feels in all ways shoved into the room, dynamite strapped to its chest, pants nowhere to be found and a wicked grin coming on as sweat trickles down its cheeks.
Emerging from the shadow of Massive Attack, Tricky's first album offers one of the most fully fleshed debuts in the past quarter century. Despite dropping undisguised samples from Isaac Hayes, Smashing Pumpkins, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, there's nothing like a direct line to any earlier music on Maxinquaye. As cantankerous as snot-nosed punk yet smooth as Barry White after a loofa rubdown by twins, Tricky's music is angry sex and prickly social revolt, insurrection with a big ol' erection. A rohypnol haze hangs in the air, seductive in a druggy, jelly limbed way, but also menacing as a stranger's Mickey in our cocktail. There's no mistaking one is playing with fire after they press start.
Given the abstraction of the packaging – a Warhol-esque blast of symbolism with a post-apocalyptic tinge – one could easily walk away wondering if Tricky was a woman given the prominence of hyper-seductive singer Martine. Now using her full name, Martina Topley-Bird, she is the calming yin amidst much raging yang, a voice one part Nina Simone, one part Ann Peebles and several parts some voodoo of her very own – without question one of THE voices of the late 20th century. Martine is the perfect foil for Tricky's mumbled, growled low tones and spoken word insertions. Together, they form a primal male-female dynamic, a sound that drives straight down to archetypes, loosening lizard brain instincts even as we swim in the ones & zeros of the thoroughly modern music. The chrome sproing is further polished by the presence of a young Alison Goldfrapp on the song "Pumpkin."
Your eyes resemble mine, you see as no others can
Here inherit my kingdom, speak of our people's plan
I'll be here for my baby, for my baby I'll be near
So many things I need to tell you
His elusive compositions and restless, overtly sensual production cement these songs in your head. Snippets come back to haunt you long after you've put the CD away, perhaps the hypnotic promise of connection in the chorus of "Overcome" or the revamped DC go-go jitter of "Brand New You're Retro" reanimates your limbs as you try to sleep. Or it could be rough couplets like "I'll fuck you in the ass/ Just for a laugh," delivered with a nonchalant, hedonistic smile, that will prick the mind. Just about everything about Maxinquaye is memorable.
Many, including Tricky on his seven subsequent records, have tried to reproduce the peculiar magic of this one. All, to one degree or another, have failed. This is an island, and like other parts of 1995's archipelago – Radiohead's The Bends, Meshuggah's Destroy Erase Improve, Julian Cope's 20 Mothers, GZA's Liquid Swords, Cornershop's Woman's Gotta Have It, Opeth's Orchid - there's palpable pre-millennial tension rippled into the muscular of Maxinquaye. Though he'd use that very description to title his sophomore album, Tricky never again so fully captured the nervous making zeitgeist of modern humans apprehensive about the future. Simply put, this is essential listening.
1. Overcome (samples "Moonchild" by Shakespears Sister)
3. Black Steel (Public Enemy cover)
4. Hell Is Round the Corner (samples "Ike's Rap II" by Isaac Hayes)
5. Pumpkin (featuring Alison Goldfrapp) (samples "Suffer" by The Smashing Pumpkins)
6. Aftermath (samples "That`s The Way Love Is" by Marvin Gaye)
7. Abbaon Fat Tracks
8. Brand New You're Retro (samples "Bad" by Michael Jackson)
9. Suffocated Love
10. You Don't
12. Feed Me
One of the album's crowning jewels is a blazing cover of Public Enemy's refusal to follow orders. Here's the original take and a live version from Later With Jools Holland, where they also perform "Suffocated Love."
Next, "Hell Is Round The Corner" performed at the 1995 Mercury Prize Awards, where Tricky's debut took home top honors.
Lastly, here's a young Ms. Goldfrapp procuring her enchantments on "Pumpkin" with the Tricky Kid.
What's that, you want an encore? Alrighty, kids, here's a Motorhead riff mauled like a Christian in old Rome.