Pre-Millennium Tension
(4th & Broadway / All formats)
TRICKY HAS a problem. A huge, wobbling one. His problem is that everything's getting a bit too, like, crazy, man. The pace of life is becoming faster and faster, peace processes are being undermined by the sizzling sausage commonly referred to as stress (NB: did you know there are 82 military conflicts currently taking place across the globe?), and basically the world is woefully short on decent chill-out vibes.
    A bit rich, admittedly, coming from a man whose own schedule is so infeastibly hectic he has worked with Garbagy, Gravediggaz, MC Mello, Whale, Elvis Costello, Terry Hall, Bush and Björk among others in the 20-month career span which seperates his debut album, 'Maxinquaye', from his second, 'Pre-Millennium Tension', via the steamy Nearly God project of earlier this year. But then again, the Tricky Dickster has always been more than ready to call a spade a sodding - bastard - buggery - piece - of - metal - attached - to - a - stick if the urge has taken him.
   And so the urge takes him several times on '... Tension': It's in the line, "When you talk you make me cringe," during 'Christiansands'; it's trapped in singer Martina's deliciously deadpan delivery of, "What can I say? I was having a f---ed up day," in the midst of 'Bad Dream'; and it's most certainly lurking luridly within 'Vent''s sneer of, "Don't push me 'cos I'm close to the edge / I'm trying not to lose my head," - arriving now at platform paranoia with the added gravitas of being pilfered from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's rap-breaking 'The Message'.
   "Lager! Lager! Lager!" part 27 this is not, then. Let's face it, the only parties 'Pre-Millennium Tension' will be fit to spin at are the f---ed-up weird-out gatherings where all the rooms have bloodshot-red lights and the staircases are crawling with fried casualties salivating with that peculiarly bug-eyed bonhomie that comes from indulging in nerve-shredding narcotics. Again, 'tis rather rich that El Tricko should mutter so menacingly about the perils of being paranoid when his legendary daily intake of dope would potentially poleaxe a panterh at a zillion paces, but the main benefit for the vengeful voyeur is that Tricky is responsible for dragging trip-hop into the infinitely darker realm of grip-hop. Cue strangehold guitar flashes, cue cruel metallic slankings, cue crazy emphysemic scenes and cue the sort of music that makes oyu run down the road mumbling, "MMMFFFPPPHHHHFF!! STOP STARING AT ME!!"
   On 'Ghetto Youth' a Jamaican acquaintance of Tricky's manages to sound, ooooh, 317 years old, delivering sic minutes of virtually incomprehendible desert-dry patois over a sad-faced beat. 'Sex Drive' takes a honking harmonica a la 'Faron Young' by Prefab Sprout and wraps it around rhythms masquerading as kung-fu sound effects. 'Bad Things' is, to all intents and purposes, a shopping - nay, chopping - list of Tricky's less sociable fantasies and pet hates, replete with indecently twisted and whispered accusations. There are further autiobiographical frownings in the deeply boggle-minded 'Tricky Kid'. And when it comes to 'Lyrics Of Fury' ...heck, need we say more?
   At his very best, Tricky is responsible for the supremely mokcing 'Makes Me Wanna Die', a deliciously dusky soundscape over which Martina - in top savage / sensual vocal form - croons, "Who do you think you are? You're insignificant", while a piano motif massages the crackling smokiness. At his worst, however, the last quarter of 'Pre-Millennium Tension' seems to suffer from the very fury which makes the rest of the record work: 'My Evil Is Strong' (geddit?) stutters and splutters along, seemingly barely capable of clamnering our of its own festering, f---ed-up cesspit of cynism; and the finale, 'Piano', is amrginally monotonous, a numbingly heavy conclusion to a frequently cool, occasionally downright cruel trawl through Tricky's psyche.
   So this is surely some kind of Saturday night fever, although hardly of the white-suited, limb-shaking, dancefloor-frugging variety. Rather, 'Pre-Millennium Tension' is more revolting than Travolta-ing; a sweaty, scowling, demanding album by a bloke who has - quelle surprise - recently been performing live onstage in virtual darkness. ANd, as such, for the most part Tricky should continue to be cherished for his stubbornness as much as for his forays into spectacular soundscapes. Equally, while 'PMT' may hardly be breaking new ground, the Trickster is vertainly stomping over 'Maxinquaye''s revolutionary old turf with a nasty diligence which belies his bewilderung spliff-laden lifestyle.
   Not the hugest of leaps forward, then, but the Tricky top lip remains as cruelly curved as ever. Go get yourself come sneer pressure.... (6)
 Simon Williams

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