Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995): Review


Produced by Tricky, Mark Saunders, Howie B and Kevin Petrie
Label – Island

In a recent interview with David Bennun to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the critically acclaimed long player, Tricky declared “I can’t even listen to it. I find it hard to do it live because, for me, “Maxinquaye” is a shit album”. It’s a confusing admission, particularly given the that the majority of listeners (fans included) acknowledge that the collected works of the Bristolian since this debut record have been lackluster to say the least. For many, the prospect of a long term ride have been dashed by a series of inconsequential releases that have all but destroyed the level of intrigue and excitement created by this disappointing opening collection. Tricky Kid originally came to prominence as the whispering rapper on Massive Attack’s iconoclastic “Blue Lines”; an album of musical innovation and originality that would find music journalists furtively searching for a generic term to bandwagon anything that sounded remotely like it. “Trip Hop” was born, its cultural capital Bristol, the home of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall. Tricky took the sonic lineage of “Five Man Army” from “Blue Lines” and developed deeply brooding beats and effects at a pace that makes listless sound frantic. The samples are there, mainly subverted into dour effects in order to emphasize a sense of cold menace. It’s a deliberately joyless affair; the effects of fear and paranoia are the rapper’s currency, with each song following both a lyrical and musical bleakness that could quell any upbeat demeanor in an instant.


Many commentators cite the reason for “Maxinquaye’s” continued critical reverence is its stark originality. “Black Steel” is an inferior alternative rock cover of Public Enemy’s “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”. Both lead off track “Overcome” and “Hell Is Round The Corner” lazily repeat the same rap as Karmacoma” and “Eurochild” from Massive Attack’s 1994 album “Protection”. Admittedly they are both Tricky’s lyrical creations, but each performance sounds superior on “Protection”. It’s difficult to murder a genuine classic, but “Hell Is Round The Corner”, pilfered from Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Rap II” renders the original into a sluggish moribund experience. The point at which one’s patience finally breaks is the desperately prolonged monotony of the aptly titled “Strugglin’”, which feels both directionless and spiritless in equal measure. Although Martina Topley Bird provides vocals on many of the songs, her melodic presence is overshadowed by the raw emotion of Shara Nelson and the seductive mystery of Beth Gibbons.

Tricky simply plunders and then emasculates some quality source material on “Maxinquaye”. Lip service is a feeble pastime, particularly when the providers are friends and musical cohorts.


Track Rating
1 – Overcome (5)
2 – Ponderosa (4)
3 – Black Steel (6)
4 – Hell Is Round The Corner (5)
5 – Pumpkin (5)
6 – Aftermath (4)
7 – Abbaon Fat Tracks (5)
8 – Brand New You’re Retro (5)
9 – Suffocated Love (5)
10 – You Don’t (4)
11 – Strugglin’ (3)
12 – Feed Me (5)

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