Tricky Knowle West Boy

Tricky Knowle West Boy
It may be coincidence that Bristol’s once-mighty trip-hop heroes are all back to recording en masse. But where Portishead’s recent re-emergence was hailed as the second coming, dark prince Tricky seems to be returning under the radar. Shame that, though understandable given his last few under-inspired records. Knowle West Boy returns Tricky to his roots, quite literally. The remembrance of his hard-luck upbringing ("Council Estate”) begins with the memorably black rhyme: "in my mother’s belly and I’m starting to kick/nine months in the womb and I’m making her sick.” While "School Gates” recounts a high-school girlfriend he may (or may not) have knocked up. Sonically, soul-drenched opener "Puppy Toy,” with its bluesy piano and charging chorus, makes it clear Tricky is no longer lost in his own head. Not that it’s all lollipops and unicorns. Produced by Tricky, with help from Suede’s Bernard Butler and Switch, Knowle is not as claustrophobically intense as his past work but remains plenty dark, with minor key strings, shuffling beats and his trademark gravelly vocals. Then Tricky’s new female muses (including ex-girlfriend Lubna, whose duet "Past Mistake” predicts their subsequent real-world break-up) add much-needed sweetness to sourpuss songs like "Cross to Bear.” Oh, and for old-school fans (does he really have any other?) Tricky offers a "Black Steel” hat tip by covering Kylie Minogue’s "Slow.” While not as strong as that original best-cover-ever, this rocked-up "Slow” is pretty awesome in its own right.

Why title it after your old Knowle West neighbourhood?
I love the name and it was a good place to grow up.

Is the album autobiographical?
Two songs [are], but there are 13 tracks on the album. I don’t do concept albums; I just make albums. I wanted to do this for the people who have been waiting… all these years.

So what’s taken so long?
I’ve been working. Doing soundtracks, TV, movies, loads of different things. I just decided not to release anything.

When recording for, say, CSI, did you ever decide, "naw, that one’s not going to Bruckheimer.”
Definitely: "Baby Come On,” "Joseph.” Sometimes it was like I’m having that — there’s no way I’m giving that away, not a chance in hell.

How do you choose what songs to cover?
If I love the melody, the vocal. If it’s something I would have liked to have done myself. I’ve loved ["Slow”] since I first heard it. I still play it.

You namedrop your 13-year-old daughter in "Past Mistake,” what does she think of your music?
She didn’t like it. "I’m not in that place,” she said. It was too dark. Kids don’t want to be sad. She’s not really interested. She’s into her indie rock music and all bands I’ve never heard of, which is good because I find out about loads of music from her. (Domino/Outside)