Album Review
Mixed Race

Mixed Race
by Tricky


Review Date
8th December 2010
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

The story of Tricky (real name Adrian Thaws) is a well thumbed document by now. Everyone is familiar with his brief tenure in trip-hop titans Massive Attack, as well as his beloved Maxinquaye album that launched dozens of mid 90s imitators. Unfortunately people are generally also aware that Tricky has not had a universally recognised watershed album since. His last outing, the autobiographical Knowle West Boy in 2008, was hailed by many as a comeback. Has Tricky capitalised on that momentum? Is his follow up a wasted opportunity or the classic album he has always threatened to make? The truthful answer is none of the above.

Proceedings start with the laid-back, jazzy cool of Every Day. While it is extremely brief it lays down a very solid example of what 21st Century Tricky excels at; cooing female vocals to accompany his whispered drawl and a scholarly knowledge of music’s history. The song also serves as a palette cleanser before diving into the boisterous Kingston Logic (although some versions of the album have it labelled as UK Jamaican). Gone is the hazy jazz club in favour of a twitchy dancehall fever, booming with the command “Earn it / Steal it / Beg it / Buy / Can’t stay poor / You gotta try it”. Tricky’s own British melting-pot heritage fuels much of the album but as the tense drama of Ghetto Stars gives way to the exotic Orientalism of Hakim you can clearly see that he uses it only as a starting point, not a limitation. Murder Weapon, the album’s immediate highlight and first single, opens with sampled gun sounds and bristles with the wisdom of not leaving one’s fingerprints on a murder weapon. Tricky plays these moments with a straight face, pre-emptively attacking those who would accuse him of documenting farce or fantasy. He believes the words he is saying and he makes you believe them too. Really Real boasts the latest in a line of “you’ll never guess who ...” guest appearances in the form of Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain), adding a healthy dose of sobriety to the song’s narcotic disco vibe.

Mixed Race is an amazingly engaging album that never settles into one particular mode before curve-balling and careening in another direction completely. It is a gutsy mixture of sounds, tones, textures, and cultures that leaves the listener salivating for more. Part of the album’s more-ish appeal is its concise length. At under half an hour, and being packed with so many narrative ideas, one cannot help but want to hit play at the conclusion of the confrontational yet playful “Bristol to London” and relive it all over again. To some this approach would be disregarded as a tease (or worse, a collection of half-baked concepts) but to others it is the fingerprint of an artist who knows exactly what he wants from his art and is unafraid to achieve it. It is rare for an album to be so, dare I say, addictive. Sure, it may not be the stone-cold masterpiece that it could have been, but what it does in spades is prove that the intellect and integrity evident in Knowle West Boy was no fluke but a promise of things yet to come. You will be hard pressed to find an album all year that worms it way under your skin and into your brain like Mixed Race does.

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