Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tricky: Angels With Dirty Faces [Island, 1998]
"Mellow" might have been recorded in a shipyard--augmenting Jack Hersca's nagging if fetching guitar and Gene Lake's steady if seething drums is a rhythm element that suggests a boat whistle heard across a moonless harbor. Next track the artist makes his pop bid with a catchy femme-chorus refrain and a guest star: Polly Jean Harvey, what a draw! For another three songs, a decent level of musical amenity is maintained: Martina's crooning tale of woe underpinned by low-register guitar/keyb riffs of unspecified origin and Calvin Weston's free drumming, three-note distorto hook beneath Tricky's speed-mumble, xylophonish tinkle countered by a keyb belch like an engine that won't catch. Thereafter the residues of grimy technologies settle into permanent low-level disorder: foghorns lowing, brakes complaining, clocks sounding across windswept nights, locomotives struggling uphill. He's a hater not a fighter, and the devil is in his details. So give that man a set of horns--he's earned them. A-