My love, my love for you
Tricky's Knowle West Boy isn't Maxinquaye or Pre-Millennium Tension. But I think it should get a decently good reception, because it's also not Vulnerable or Blowback. No, it lands somewhere between those poles, alternating between old genius and more recent embarrassment. On this new album, Tricky is most successful at reviving the dread and alienation that made his debut such a classic. Where he stumbles more are the songs themselves, which try to evoke but can't really compete with his earlier work. Still, there's one glaring exception among the lot, "Past Mistake," which sounds as good as anything he's done.
One of its key features is that it's not sung by Tricky, but his surrogate and ex-girlfriend Lubna. The obvious callback is "Makes Me Wanna Die," featuring his former lover Martina Topley-Bird. On both tracks, Tricky relegates himself to background whispers and murmurs. That puts the focus on the beautiful and aching vocals, while still adding the gruffer texture of his baritone below. Because Lubna is French-Moroccan, there's also a sexy, beguiling lilt in her delivery. When she sings of "lying eyes," it sounds more like "lion eyes." When she coos about "my love for you," it sounds like a somewhat foreign concept.
The song, which is all about doomed devotion, has its autobiographical elements. As Tricky reveals on his website, "It's funny... me and Lubna wrote 'Past Mistake' when we were just turning from good to bad. One day much later we were in bed listening to it and we realised that it was about us going horribly wrong." Even without knowing that, you can hear the apprehension and unease in the spooky accompaniment. The drums clap down like deadlines, the eerie strings sound like elevator music in a deserted hospital. The more and more Lubna insists of "my love for you," the more valedictory it grows. Even Tricky starts to sound uncharacteristically affected, as if realizing this "Past Mistake" can make up for some of his others.
* MP3: "Past Mistake" - Tricky from Knowle West Boy [Buy it]