Another week done, another artist overplayed whenever possible. Thankfully I’m not part of a carpool or anything, so it’s only me that is incessantly listening to one artist furiously for seven days and I’m not forcing this on anyone else.
Tricky was an acquired taste for me. I heard him on a couple of soundtracks, and was familiar with him only tangentially. I like Massive Attack at the time, but really hand’t explored their early works, which he was a part of. I was kind of stuck on Mezzanine and 100th Window and hadn’t quite made it back to Blue Lines. The most I knew about Tricky then was that he had collaborated with Björk on Enjoy and he was in The Fifth Element. The first time I really noticed him was on the soundtrack to Queen of the Damned, which featured his track Excess. On a whim, I grabbed two albums after that, Maxinquaye and Pre-Millenium Tension, that I found at a used record store. I was not immediately smitten like I have been with other artists. It took me a second to get into it. Trip-hop is not as accessible as it would at first seem, at least not for me. Once I got there though, I wanted more. I picked up Angels with Dirty Faces and Blowback shortly after that, and then just continued to work through the back catalogue as I stayed current with each release after that, starting with False Idols.
Tricky’s music is a manifestation of my dark side. That might have been one of the reasons I had trouble initially getting into it. I’m not someone who easily embraces my own dark side. My dark side doesn’t comfortably fit my personal narrative, it is antithetical to a lot of the values I seek for myself. But, you have to let those darker parts of yourself breathe a little from time to time, or they get out of control. There is something about Tricky’s music that paints a picture of the world that appeals to those base instincts and primal urges that I spend a lot of time not thinking about. The picture painted is gritty and sexy and dark. It’s the underworld of society that I always imagine is there, but would never actually go to in the real world. I’m not saying that it actually exists, so much as it is a caricature of the “movie version” of the dark underbelly of society. It’s all exaggerated and given far more weight than it should. It’s the scene in the film where the main character who has spent their life living in a gleaming high rise in a beautiful city finds themselves forced into dealing with people in secret, smoke-filled, poorly-lit clubs to achieve their goals. Very fish-out-of-water, but necessary to the plot to show the lengths our main character will go to get what they want/need. And the soundtrack to that dark and seedy club is, for me, Tricky.
Yeah, my dark side really likes those mythic clubs. Little to no lighting. Smoke everywhere, from people not for atmosphere. Lots of plush booths with cracked leather. People wearing sunglasses indoors, intimidating security guards and over-confident underworld masterminds. Scantily clad women dancing, but not a strip club. If you’re thinking this sounds like something out of a film noir masterpiece or a Shadowrun RPG, you’d be right. I can’t say for sure which came first, my love of film noir and Shadowrun or my darker side emphasizing that kind of atmosphere for release. Regardless, I feel Tricky provides the perfect soundtrack to those dark places. It might be his half-spoken, half-growled lyrics. It might be the juxtaposition of his lyrics with a beautiful female vocalist. It might be the subdued beats. It might be that every time he includes electric guitar, it sounds like it’s screaming. It might be the unsettling uneven loops and rhythms he employs. I’m not sure. But it just helps me visualize that place where my dark side goes to play.
In real life, my dark side doesn’t get to do stuff like that. My decidedly middle-class white guy existence has prepared me for a life of shopping at Target and drinking flavored coffee. I have no business in a grimy bar, trying to act like I belong. I’m just not mentally equipped for that. But everyone has a dark side, and if you don’t give it an outlet, you’re walking an unhealthy path that leads to you having the bodies of neighborhood cats in your freezer. So this is how I vent. I play Shadowrun (I haven’t played the pen-and-paper version in some time, but I have the cRPG games that came out recently and those are good enough for right now), I watch The Usual Suspects and Blade Runner, and I listen to Tricky.