Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nearly God: Nearly God (1996)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Nearly God
Nearly God
(Durban Poison/Island)

Talk about hype. This time last year Tricky was parlaying an acid-house, hip-hop pastiche called Maxinquaye into the number-one rock-critic album of the year. That he succeeded, however, says more about the herd mentality of rock critics than it does about the musical value of Tricky, which judging from Nearly God, his pseudonymous follow-up, is nil and getting niller. Not just hookless but tuneless, not just incoherent but comatose, it deserves nothing if not opprobrium.

Not that there aren’t interesting influences squirming in Tricky's murk: snuff-film soundtracks, obscene phone calls, phone sex, bad acid. In other words, lots of heavy breathing, ominous whispering, and orgasm-choked squeals smothered in distortion and set to rhythms best appreciated by those without motor skills. Still, Tricky is tricky. Just when you think none of these twelve "songs" will do anything but coagulate like a lava lamp, he adds "Black Coffee," a duet with Martina Topley Bird that, like the "Ice Ice Baby"/ "Under Pressure" riff it's built on, gets catchier with each listen. Then comes "Children's Story," a Martina Topley Bird rap that also gets catchier with each listen. Programmed between them, even "I Be the Prophet," which deconstructs an early-Eurythmics synth riff without killing it and serves as yet another Bird vehicle, ends up sounding pretty good.

Three out of twelve, however, seems stingy for a Next Big Thing's next big thing, and since Nearly God's only memorable line is a sample that goes "When they tell me that I'm stuck up / I just tell them shut the fuck up," the album seems arrogant, as well. Nearly God is the sound of Tricky giving us the finger. Pull it if you want, but don't say you weren't warned.

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