Angels With Dirty Faces


Island Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Tricky has always been an angry artist. Luckily, that anger was tempered with the other members of Massive Attack on their landmark album, Blue Lines. When the Tricky kid went solo, singer Martine was able to add some human elements to make Maxinquaye an absoultely beuatiful masterpiece in trip-hop.

Tricky has always hated that term, though. So, in his last album, Pre-Millenium Tension, he eschweinged that label in favor of dense, heavy b-boy beats, typical of west-cost American rappers. In his new album, Angels With Dirty Faces, Tricky not only further distances himself with trip-hop, he adds heavy metal to his palatte. His horizons have broadened, so give him props for that. But, Angels With Dirty Faces is basically a misfire for a musician whom we've come to expect brilliance from.

It's easy for me to begin with the good elements of the album. At least Scott Ian, from Anthrax, is employed. He adds his pulverizing guitar work to many of the tracks in Angels With Dirty Faces. P.J. Harvey also adds her majestic voice to "Singing The Blues", backed by an angelic choir.

The disturbing, claustrophobic beats are still very much there throughout Angels With Dirty Faces. The stacked, complex rhytms of "6 Minutes" and "Demise" will probably take dozens of listens to be truely appreciated. Therefore, it's hard to give this album a bad grade right now, without giving it a few listens to seep in.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However...I stand by my grade as it is. So much of what made Tricky great is not present on Angels With Dirty Faces. What brought Pre-Millenium Tension down was its incessant b-boy posturing. Tricky is free to do whatever he wants, but he's a privlidged Brit who smokes spliffs the size of a zeppelin. His bitching about record companies also thwarted that album's power. On Angels With Dirty Faces, he elevates the attack even further.

The record industry is "full of vomit", on "6 minutes". The industry gets its own "fuck you" address on the song, "Record Companies". And in "Broken Homes", P.J. Harvey is reduced to bellowing, "Murder is Media". Sure it is. But, haven't we heard this before in many other different phrases?

It also doesn't help that Tricky's trump card, Martine, is reduced to a background vocal on so many of the tracks on Angels With Dirty Faces. In many of the tracks, Martine is reduced to a supporting role. On "Analyze Me," she is given a fairly chilly number to sing a dominant role in. None of the lonely, longing numbers like "Makes Me Wanna Die" or "Suffocated Love" appear on Angels With Dirty Faces. Pity, those tracks made Tricky stand out as a landmark artist.

The deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac loom heavily on the album. Most of the album addresses their death in some form or another. And Tricky's heart is in the right place. Though his vocal delivery is still nowhere near as effective as Martine, when he sings "I'm too scared to be a gun totting gangsta wannabe", we believe it.

Perhaps his breakup with Martine had something to do with the slightly lower quality of Angels With Dirty Faces. Martine's role has been reduced with each album that Tricky has made. With their classic, Maxinquaye, Martine sounded like a vital second band member, the equivliant to Keith Richards to Mick Jagger. In Angels With Dirty Faces, she's almost reduced to a guest vocal spot.

Hopefully, Tricky will realize that Martine is the Cher to Tricky's Sonny Bono vocals. Ok, maybe he's a better vocalist than the late senator. But Angels With Dirty Faces sounds like a side project to Tricky's previous great releases. Add this album to the growing list of disappointing albums released by great artists this year, right behind Smashing Pumpkins and Garbage. It's still better than most of the stuff that's out today, but if this year was to end right now, my top pic of the year, save Tori Amos's from the choirgirl hotel would be Dave Matthews Band's new album. That's scarier than any of the fear-inducing tracks on Angels With Dirty Faces.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.