100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #50

Tricky – Maxinquaye
‘Maxinquaye’ is the sound of being worryingly high in a squat, unable to lift your arm to dial 999. It sounds both dangerous and powerless, but always weirdly exciting, and is probably one of very few British hip-hop records to stand apart from its counterparts (or sound good at all, for that matter). Tricky’s tightly coiled growl is menacing enough – his is the only voice that could make “I can’t breathe” sound like a sexual come-on – but the sound he carves out oozes far more fear. He even makes a pan flute sound moderately effective on ‘Overcome’, a destructive yang to Massive Attack’s numbed yin ‘Karmacoma’. The choice of collaborators is inspired; his then-girlfriend Martina Topley-Bird features almost throughout and provides an eerily silky contrast to the closing in walls and Allison Goldfrapp’s semi-conscious floating vocal on ‘Pumpkin’ sounds like its being sucked into a black hole. The clear highlight however is Tricky’s (near) solo piece ‘Hell Is Around The Corner’ which takes Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ and twists it out of shape until it’s melting in a house fire. Nearly matching it is ‘Black Steel’, an inspired cover which turns Public Enemy’s ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’ into plummeting alt. rock classic.

Listen to: Hell Is Around The Corner

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