on 21 July 2003
The thing that really sets this album apart from anything else produced in the last 10 years (including Tricky's other albums) is the lyrics. Like reading Shakespeare or listening to the ramblings of a drunk it takes a while to make sense of the words and realise just how much wisdom there is lying beneath:
"You feed me lies, distortion - the English disaster"
"I was raised in this place, now concrete is my religion"
"We're hungry, beware of our appetite"
I could try writing paragraph after paragraph about the different meanings I take from these lyrics and why I think they show us how ugly and scary an institution modern British culture can be, but I could never get the point across the way Tricky does. You know when you hear a tune and it's so good that you're convinced you've heard it before? Well that's how I feel about the words on this album - they sound like they were just waiting for someone to say them.
It's not just the lyrics either - the music creates the paranoid mood the lyrics evoke and the lyrics describe the dark lonely places the music takes you to, making it almost impossible to seperate the two. The beats are disjointed and messy - but never just for the sake of it. The chopped up ideas and phrases and the layering of different vocal parts on every song takes you to the twisted place the narrator is living in.
8 years down the line and this album still sounds ahead of the game - phrases like trip-hop and chilled-out are deceptive (even insulting), save them for baby food music like morcheeba. I rank this album up there with all the classics - astral weeks, the stone roses, dylan, marley. I just hope time proves me right!
on 2 January 2010
Don't get me wrong : "Maxinquaye" is a real jewel but this special edition misses the goal.Instead of adding the B-sides (of the EP "hell 's around the corner" for example) , or some catchy live tracks (the still unissued tracks like "saturday night", or early versions of "together now" (appearing later on nearly god's album), "bombing bastards" or "Kill a jew", or whatever remastered recordings the numerous concerts that Tricky and Martina gave at the time), what did they fill the 2nd CD with? completely worthless mixes and re mixes and (so they say) a capella manipulated versions which are nearly unlistenable.
Tricky live was (and still is) an experience (top notch musicians, energetic versions with real drumming of all the "Maxinquaye" tracks). Any live version would have been welcome, especially the one of "feed me" for example which gives another dimension to the track. again a missed opportunity....... stay away.
on 31 December 1999
I really like this album. I'd first heard Tricky on the Massive Attack/ Protection CD and from hearing that, felt it was worth taking a chance on his solo album - what a lucky guess.. Seriously, if you want something dark and metallic, kind of fresh out of the furnace sounding, balanced with well thought-out lyrics and haunting vocals this will work for you. It has (for me anyways) a good balance of emotional tones in the different pieces, without resorting to repetition, although this does crop up in a very interesting way for those who already own Massive Attack's Protection album. The two albums, side by side, seem like two interpretations of a singlular theme; the cut-and-pasting of voices and lyrics between the two albums opens another perspective from which to appreciate tricky's work on this album. End result: on it's own feet 'tis a memorable album, side by side with Massive Attack's Protection it offers a deeper and intriguing statement. But then you might just like it for the beats..
on 19 April 2005
I only got this album recently but wish I'd bought it sooner; it's beautiful...I expected its general dark, paranoid theme but was surprised at how varied it was both musically and lyrically. And the vocals are amazing! Anyone into Massive Attack etc should definitely give it a go...
on 8 March 2005
I don't normally write reviews, but was sitting at the computer, decided to put some music on and came accross this album in my collection. I had forgotten just how much I love it, it's easily my favourite album of the 90's if not all time! Buy it now, you will not regret it!
on 18 March 2007
Every generation has music that defines their era and in the mid-nineties it was the output of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead that has the greatest resonance. Like watching 'This Life' these albums transport you to a specific time and place: pre-millenium, pre-9-11, pre-Blair... Although they coincided with the media-hyped emergence of Britpop and Radiohead's The Bends, it is the sound of the Bristol 'Holy Trinity' that is most redolent of that period. Twelve years on (I can't believe it!) I bought the CD having only owned the cassette (really) and not having listened to it of late. Whereas Portishead in particular had to contend with a plethora of interior imitators, Tricky's sound was harder to replicate, even superficially: the weed-induced paranoia, the sexual ambiguity and provocation, the muttered half-raps, the male-female vocals less in duet but rather hybrid forms of Tricky's own perverse identity. It has not (quite) lost any of its power, and still has to be considered one of the great albums of the period, even if a few tracks have dated a little.
'Overcome', the opener, I feel has suffered the worst. The lyrics recycled from Tricky's raps on Protection are sung blandly by his original muse Martina Topley-Bird, and the pan-pipes in the chorus seem so cliched now. It's garden variety trip hop and was surprising used as the closing track on Island's Tricky retrospective, A Ruff Guide (not the only discrepancy on that play list). 'Ponderosa' is still fantastic, even if the production sounds a little flat now, with a loop that sounds like Tom Waits playing on a skull drum kit in Haiti. Topley-Bird reminds us of how unique her voice sounded then (pre-Mike Skinner, pre-Lilly Allen), its Grange Hill sneer over Tricky's marajuana-psychosis lyrics: "underneath the Weeping Willow lies a weeping wino". 'Black Steel', for all its grungy cross-over appeal, remains a brilliant reworking of the Public Enemy original and one of the last great examples in the dying art of the cover version. The stoned and jaded (and recylced) lyrics on 'Hell is Round the Corner' complement the Isaac Hayes sample as effectively as Portishead's similar 'Glory Box', and feels strangely like the album's centrepiece. Oddly grandiose, but at the same time obscure, it was an odd choice for a single at the time but still stirs up some unusual feelings.
Superficially 'Pumpkin' is vapid trip hop in the mold of Overcome and a waste of Alison Goldfrapp's obvious talents, but it is given levity by the Smashing Pumpkins sample and Tricky's own near-comatose contributions. Its low-key finish - like wind-chimes rotating in slow motion to a beautifully blunted hip hop break - is a great end to the old cassette Side One. 'Aftermath', always the album's most overrated track and first single, started sounding dated by the time trip hop was in full swing, its low slung funk and 'jazz flute' too reminiscent of numerous other hideous 'chill out' acts. I can imagine this is what Tricky was subsequently trying to distance himself from on Pre-Milennial Tension. 'Abbaon Fat Tracks' is still startlingly provocative and erotic, not least for having Topley-Bird sing about anal sex and the general stickiness of the production: all warped soul and sitar exotica. Both sensual and pornographic, it reeks of sex and intimacy, as does the dissection of Tricky and Martina's relationship on 'Suffocated Love': "I keep her warm but we never kiss ... she cuts my slender wrist'. It is partly these tracks that make Maxinquaye so superior to its goatee-stroking bandwagon contemporaries, the use of soul and hip hop as an window into a private world. It makes the listener strangely complicit by forcing us into a queasily voyeuristic position; more simply, its a great sex album.
'You Don't' is still a wonderfully singular piece of soul that is suggestive of early Massive Attack and is without comparison on the album, while 'Strugglin' is a massive indulgence and a sign-post to Tricky's subsequent self-destructive inability to harness his talents into something listenable. The beautiful closer 'Feed Me' ends Side Two on a similar somnabulant note to the first side, slow-motion soul for the end of the 20th century to file next to Unfinished Sympathy. In conclusion then, its still brilliant, and not to be confused with much of the posturing Hoxton wine-bar background music being mass-produced at the time. One of the last truely original great albums.
on 21 February 2013
I have wanted this album since i first heard it in '95.... can't believe it's taken me til 2013 to finally buy it!?! ...i'm glad i did finally buy it - it's a beauty! ...sublime beats n grooves, lars of loveliness... can't beat it! ..and it was cheaper than the digital download!?! ..just buy it!! <3
on 9 February 2007
I bought this album in March 95, and it still holds. Keep coming back to it, every now and then. Just have to hear "Overcome" or "Pumpkin" in another context, and I think: yes, that was a good album, and I put it on... and it's just as great an experience now as it was the first time I heard it. You cannot overrate it! It's as integrated an album as the Beatles' Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper; and if that doesn't mean anything to you, well that's your problem!
Every tune leads into the other, they are magnificent by themselves and outstanding as part of a whole. One hell of a modern symphony, if you like!
Coming out of collaboration with Massive Attack, Tricky was clearly bursting with ideas of his own. On Maxinquaye he sticks to a trip-hop bluieprint, ironically nicking Karma Coma's lyrics for the brooding 'Overcomes' and even sampling Portishead's 'Glory Box' - one of the classic triphop songs - on 'Hell Is Round The Corner'. Yet he infuses the sound with a dark, understated urban menace and with singer Martina Topley-Bird he creates sweltering, sexy grooves that sometimes, as on 'Abbaon Fat Tracks', descend into pure erotica. She has a sultry, alternative voice which complements his laidback rapping style very well, both of them sounding very British. Its an intriguing combination though its a shame that he doesnt take the mic and go solo more often. His only real freestyle rap comes on the almost old-skool hip-hop of 'Brand New You're Retro'.
Occasionally as on 'Strugglin' they wander astray without a tune and it makes for a somewhat routine track, acceptable as a 2-minute filler but unbearable stretched into 6 and 1/2 minutes. Yet there's more than enough to make up for it: the masterpiece of paraonoia that is an inspired cover of 'Black Steel', Topley-Bird's voice awash in aggressive guitars and gritty production. Her voice is an acquired taste, especially on tracks like 'Ponderosa' where her sound is totally Estuary, but its nicely broken up by the lush 'Pumpkin' which takes the ingenious tactic of marrying a Massive Attack-style backing track to Orbital (and, after this album, Goldfrapp) vocalist Alison Goldfrapp and a brooding Smashing Pumpkins sample. Also, when the tracks are as good as 'You Don't' which is reggae-tinged and almost like the Horace Andy tracks on 'Blue Lines' its churlish to complain.
Ultimately, Maxinquaye is not only a trip-hop masterpiece but an urban classic. Highly reccomended to fans of not just triphop but those new to the genre or mainstream hip-hop fans.
on 9 November 2015
Growing up a mile from Tricky I know the area/s he talks of so it makes me feel very nostalgic yet depressed. As the music resonates with our childhood and I have some bitter sweet memories of back then. Tricky is one of the greatest writers of heart felt personal music I know of. I am familiar also with Massive Attack as they are from Bristol aswell so am in love with their edgy often melancholy sounds also. This is the best of Trickies work and for me for me 100th window is my Massive fav. A great introduction to the Bristol and Knowle West/ St Pauls sound is this. You might like Martina Topley Bird also as she has sang on many Tricky tunes and her own albums.