26 October 2010

Tricky, Mixed Race (2010): Album Review

Mixed Race is the 9th studio album from English musician Adrian Thaws, better known as Tricky. After releasing his first CD over 15 years ago now, Tricky has had some modest success on the UK radio singles chart, and has collaborated with everybody from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Yoko Ono. He is most known for his dark, spoken-song lyrics, as well as his mixture of both rock and hip-hop. Well, I’m not sure if Mixed Race is supposed to be going in a new direction or something, but it’s a lot closer to folksy dreck.

The very first song, “Every Day,” is the perfect example of this. Quite honestly, I feel like my ears are slowly bleeding and losing my sanity when I listen to it. It’s like some tone-deaf Southerners in rocking chairs somehow made their way onto the album (no offense to Southerners, I’m from South Carolina myself.) Next up, we have “UK Jamaican.” You know that song “Technologic” by Daft Punk? The little robot voice chanting, “buy it, use it, break it, fix it” over and over again? Yeah. Imagine a really poor rip-off of that and you’ll have “UK Jamaican.” Another song called “Early Bird” just sounds like an extremely sloppy jazz song, if it even qualifies as jazz. It’s just a big jumble of horns and piano and drums with creepy, gravely whispers throughout. And while the strings do sound pretty cool in the tune “Ghetto Stars,” the boring and uninspired vocals really bring down the entire song. “Hakim” has a very exotic feel with some interesting tribal-like chants intertwined, but it’s not the kind of song you open your iTunes to play—it’s the kind of song you hear in an elevator and most likely wouldn’t even acknowledge. The next song, “Come to Me,” resonates some slight hip-hop in some parts, but most of the time is just chill electronic guitar that we’ve heard before from the far superior Ratatat. “Murder Weapon” has a catchy beat and simple chorus that mostly consists of repeating the title, but other than that the lyrics leave much to be desired. And if “Time To Dance” is exclaiming how the listener should get up to dance, why is the song so slow and boring? In “Really Real,” Tricky channels both Mike Posner and Muse, which sounds like an odd combination…and it is. The main difference is that he lacks both the lyrical prose Posner possesses, and the commanding force behind Muse’s instrumentals. To conclude the CD, Tricky actually decides to incorporate some real hip-hop into the mix, and I’ll admit, I like it very much. It’s that kind of streetwise rap you hear from the likes of K’naan, spitting fast rhymes with funky sounds to boot.

My one question is why did he wait till his very last song to show off his rap skills? That was honestly the only song on the entire album I could ever see myself listening to again, and I would be interested to investigate his earlier work to see if he has more similar tunes like that. Overall, I would say it was a terrible album—I understand the whole effort of trying to be diverse and unique with one’s music, but I feel like it wasn’t even one cohesive album, it was just a big mess of music genres that was on a whole painful for the ears. I’m sure this one album isn’t going to make or break his career—but I would certainly consider Mixed Race a far step back for Tricky, and recommend that he return to form if he wants to produce better music in the future.

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