You wouldn’t have thought it likely that Tricky would make an album darker or more difficult than his last, Pre-Millennium Tension. In fact, you wouldn’t have thought it possible. But Angels With Dirty Faces is murky and arduous in the extreme .
   It’s not a bad record. Tricky has yet to make one of those. Angels has plenty of the strange and original ideas you’d expect from him. But it’s not a great record, and it needed to be. Only a great record could justify making these kinds of demands on the listener. It’s an hour long, and during that hour it will stretch your patience, sap your will and hurt your ears. All reasonable things for Tricky to get up to, but the rewards have to be more generous than this.
   Tricky’s always been a great one for speaking his mind, or muttering it, at any rate. And since the impossibly great Maxinquaye LP shot him to renown, his already precarious grip on stability has been weakened further by the scrutiny fixed upon him. A continuing obsession with the media, with the music business, with suspicion, lies and betrayal, lines this album like a heavy, dusty blanket
over the windows, blotting out the light and creating an atmosphere of choking claustrophobia.
   There are superb tracks on here, like Record Companies; the lyrically fascinating Peyote Sings; the Polly Jean Harvey-abetted Broken Homes; and 6 Minutes, which takes its title and feel from the weirder side of Snoop Doggy Dogg’s last album. But elsewhere there’s a sense of repetition and, with the covers of Singing The Blues and The Moment I Feared, of retreading old ground - specifically, the extraordinary version he and his regular muse Martina recorded of Public Enemy’s Black Steel. A new Tricky opus always makes my ears prick up, but if he carries on like this, I’m not sure who else is going to keep on listening. Given the anguish success seems to have brought him, maybe that’s what he has in mind.

© David Bennun