He’s been wandering around our lives for years, of course, but most of us didn’t really know it. Sharp-edged with a fierce honesty and a need to grab you- gently- in the street and spin you round, dark-funny, messy-sexual, Falkirk-wise, clownish and deadly fucking serious, this emphatic, empathic Celtic romantic, this grumpy ex-lover, ex-this, ex-that, all twisted and yearning and straight-down-the-line, has been doleing out advice and chords and sweet and sour words in guise after disguise for years. Mocking and lusting and drinking, run through with smart, rainy, self-effacing angst, with edge-of-suicide hope and wit, with an amused, amusing snarl, he’s talked and torn, sung and screamed, run without really going anywhere. Like you and me, he’s just done what he’s had to do. But most of us didn’t really know it.
Originally on Twisted Ear:
Here is where we start and where we end.
Picture the scene.
Two young(ish) people, a man and a woman, are wandering through mid-European poppy-full fields, running through haunted forests, hand-in-hand. The woman is strangely-clothed, weird, Celtic and ancient somehow, mumbling then pleading then smiling; the man- a step behind her- seems to be orchestrating her movements, her indistinct, then too-distinct, words, conducting them, surrounding them with waves of unheard sound and washes of quantum energy. They wink at each other, grin, playing like kittens, seeming to be immersing themselves in a world that exists just for them. Snatches of Nick Drake and Air and Tangerine Dream: pianos and acoustic strums and keyboard waves bob and pluck and caress. A dark figure, scythe in hand, wanders across the screen.
A murderous, mumbling intensity, a deep-drugged disdain; punky, punchy grit and grime, primitive edge and absorbed/absorbing purpose, all shot through with a slamming self-belief: Tricky’s recent on/from-another-planet two-song appearance on Later a few weeks back seemed to offer a guarantee that this was going to be brilliant, a vicious, head-spinning assault of deadly, doomed romance. The album was going to be joy and rage and soul pointed at and pitted against the lazy, the bland, the wear-your-influences-on-your-sleeve-so-no-one-will-notice-your-lack-of-heart rock bands, the New Labour/Coldplay axis of evil, the sponsored festival crap and the dim, dangerous, whiter-than-white, status quo-worshipping ‘Glastonbury’s for guitar bands’ bollocks that’s continually bleaching and rewriting history rather than taking it as inspiration and warning. This was, it seemed, going to do what Tricky and his Nineties Massive mates did way back when: re-charge and re-ignite pop music’s essential to-and-fro Black America-to-white-Britain-and-back-againness, celebrate all the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s working-class kids in Liverpool, London and Bristol standing, waiting eagerly at the docks, in clubs and in their angry, lost bedrooms for the latest r’n’b import just so they could copy, distort and build on it before sending it back where it came from with added sneer, a whole load of new textures and clumsy, cocky craftiness . . .
From Twisted Ear:
A little way into ninth track Dry Off Your Cheeks, Mr T sounds exactly like Sandinista-era Joe Strummer- strained, throaty, sure of purpose, desperate to be heard, fighting to unite and spread wide- and you realise what this album’s all about . . .
Madonna/whore view of women? Check
Ambivalence toward violence? Check
Inability/unwillingness to shake off a narrow range of US influences? Check
Arrogance/self-doubt in equal measure? Check
Clumsy humour? Check
Magpie-pilfering from a rag-bag of genres? Check