Hey. Adrian. Err, Tricky. You mind if I drop in? I’m writing this review about your album, and I wanted you in it. You don’t have to say much – in fact, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. I’m just trying to make a point. You named your last album after yourself, because you wanted to emerge from the shadows. I didn’t think you did. But that means we need to ask – how much can we see you in this Skilled Mechanics project? Well, I’ve lived in it a while – and there’s fewer crawlspaces to hide in, less smog to suffocate in, and I still can’t find my way out. In your other albums, the landscape would scuttle and drift, and you’d blink in and out as you willed; here the room remains a room, and yet you remain…well, I still don’t know what you are now. But that’s for the good. I like you better when I can’t define you.
Bear in mind, you can get up in our face. The punchy synthpop you played with on Adrian Thawes has calcified into some perfectly sleazy gems this time, especially the Soft Cell-ish 'Here My Dear' and the bouncy, Egyptian Lover-ish 'Heroe'. Yet still you strike like a spider, laying gossamer snares first and crawling down to your prey later. And I dig that. I’ve always dug that in you. I speak for a bunch of soft-spoken freaks when I say that the success of your weakness – your inversion of masculinity – is the first reason I admire you so much.
But we have to talk about 'Boy'. You want people to talk about 'Boy', don’t you? You drop this self-exposé conceit like a depth charge, and you’re astute enough to name it after the most disarming couplet: “At 12 I met my dad / his name was Roy / he forget my name / so he call me Boy” Yet, while the song spins like an old school freestyle, you remain stony and succinct as ever. Your brisk pace shoots some lines straight to our necks (<em<“killed my uncle Mike / heard my Nana scream / no, its not a dream”), while others fall flat on your face (“I met a girl / I jump for joy”). In the end, even with the hazy chorus, 'Boy' winds up coasting more than your risqué back-story should.
Now, I’m hearing more intriguing themes here. You talk twice to people who drift in wasted time – first the super slick R&B toast on 'How’s Your Life' (genius, by-the-by), then the hazy drag of 'Well', with that great phrase ”I used to rock and roll play”. In both tracks, you seem to flicker between speaker and subject – and I realize, that I didn’t realize how disorienting your words were until I tried to parse them out. Are they condemnations? Or just dutiful observation? In that creepy drawl of yours, ”Out for himself / not for wealth” could go both ways. This is all good.
Still. Don’t ever stop working with women, Tricky. Please. The second reason I admire you so much is that you lift these righteous singers onto your platform and give them free reign to knock everyone else’s socks off. Granted, you didn’t have to tell us how amazing Ivy is on 'From Beijing to Berlin'” If anything, you oughta big up Oh Land for that deadly hypnosis 'I’m Not Going' – oh my lawd, man. I can’t tell you how much I’ve muttered ”click and I’m dead” under my breath. Also, I’m chuffed to hear Francesca Belmonte ('Nicotine Love'! AHHHHH) descend from the stars again for 'We Begin', even if for less than two minutes.
So. Are you satisfied with this whole Skilled Mechanics thing? I’d say it’s definitely the most muted I’ve ever heard you – and not in a 'struggling to breathe' kind of muted, but more a 'gun on safety' kind of muted. Beats the last one, though – more hummable tunes, less questionable stances (seriously, dude, that “Palestine Girl” was not kosher). And I still admire you, soooooo…
Right. I’ll leave now.
7Lee Adcock's Score