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Vulnerability is delicious - Tricky: Vulnerable

2006-03-29 18:18

As a listener you could easily obsess over how this album shuffles its way obliquely through an ominous, perhaps even paranoid nightmare yet is somehow packed with that strangely seductive mix of effortlessly infectious pop melodies ("Car Crash"), lush vocal harmonies ("Hollow") and copyrighted blunted broken beats.

Okay, then. There's the dazed 'n confused retro trip-hop of the opening track "Stay", the ultra-fashionable electro-clash swagger of "Antimatter", the Prodigy-skewered rasp of "Antimatter" and the blunted *o**-rock blizzard of "How High". But there's also something far more elusive.

You see, when Tricky sculpts a rap his rhymes ooze into an eerie array of emotional spaces. Hardly surprising - after all, that psychological cul-de-sac where his own narcotised vocal ennui melts into the teasing caresses of a crooning pop chanteuse have long been the source of his sinister appeal. On the guitar driven "Moody" he exchanges rasps with guest sighs 'n soars from Costanza, reinforcing the suggestion of an edgy, menacing mood that ultimately frustrates the listener's desire to actually feel the abyss ("Search, Search, Survive").

But then maybe this is precisely why Vulnerable works. It's difficult to digest after even half a dozen listens. Perhaps the best point of entry for the uninitiated is his audacious take on two early 80s classics. The Cure's "Love Cats" becomes a peep show pop playground, dripping playful sensuality. While XTC's "Dear God" is a cooing downtempo breeze that recalls Gainsbourg and Bardot in their prime.

So, who's feeling Vulnerable now?

To continually compare anything Tricky releases to decade old material like his dazzling debut Maxinquaye (1993) would be a nostalgic exercise in futility. Suffice to say then that unlike the treading water disappointments of Blowback (2002) and Angels With Dirty Faces (2000) the Tricky Kid's seventh studio album, Vulnerable, deserves its "return to form" tag.

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