Living up to the title of being one of the founding fathers of the Trip-Hop movement seemed to have taken its toll on Tricky. After his smoky, smouldering, whispered vocals on Massive Attackís seminal Blue Lines and Protection, the perma-stoned Bristolian went on to record his own genre-defining work, Maxinquaye, and album named after his mother. Another decent album followed in Pre-Millenium Tension, but the wheels seemed to fall off after that. His singing partner, Martina Topley-Bird (who featured on the last Player CD, Player .043), and he split up, and his work was not the same. Now itís 2003 and Tricky has found a new muse in chanteuse Constanza and things are again looking up. Vulnerable is easily his best work since Tension, but it is hardly a re-run of times past. This is a much more pop-oriented album, with hints of electronica peeking through often, not only tight trip-hop breaks. Premiere single "Anti-Matter" is much lighter and airier than works past, and that vibe tends to permeate throught the entire long-player. The more dark and sinister side is still evident ("Hollow,""Car Crash") but a rock-heavy aspect is in effect, too ("Where Iím From,""How High," "Moody"). And never one to shy away from a cover version (see his epic rendition of Public Enemyís "Black Steel" on Maxinquaye), Tricky rocks two on Vulnerable, adding his own takes of "Dear God" by XTC and The Cureís "The Love Cats." Nice to have you back, Tricky. Youíve been missed.
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN