I’ve written elsewhere about how important 1997 was to me when it came to understanding and accepting music that wasn’t just “white boys with jangly guitars,” but listening to this again for the first time in some years, I realize that Tricky’s Maxinquaye album came even earlier and laid the groundwork. Listen to the backing of this song, and revel in how un-pop it actually is. Here, I’ll make it easier for you:
There’s a lot going on in there; it’s wonderfully layered, percussion playing off percussion to create something akin to melody at times, even when the organ sample isn’t leading you in the background to where it wants you to be. But by the time you get to the sampled, looped “Hey man” in the second half, followed by the piano loop sounding just a little bit off (Too fast, a little manic, especially when it gets overdubbed by itself, just a little out of synch), there’s an entire atmosphere to this track, a biosphere of story and feeling that’s punctuated with noises that come from places that we might not recognize as music elsewhere (The… what, roar of something that follows the piano?).
It’s a brave choice to put as the second track on a debut album (Especially considering that “Overcome,” the first track, is far more traditional in its construction and instrumentation – The pan pipes almost sound accidentally comedic now – and less abrasive to the untrained ear; It was the first single off the album, as far as I remember, although I may be wrong), but it works as the following track nonetheless, and serves as a warning and tease for what’s to follow: “If you like this, then there’s more to come,” if you will.
There’s something seductive about it, as music, even before you get to Tricky and Martina Topley Bird’s vocals on top. Again, this is Martina’s show, with beautifully scratchy, casual vocals that sound playful and sexy (That laugh at 2:36!) while Tricky’s murmuring behind her sounds like an ugliness hidden under the surface, some scary monster and super freak that’s on the same level as the animalistic roar/squawk, ready to jump out and bite when you let your guard down. The illusion of confusion, reflected from lyric to sound to feeling. The track as a holistic experience, disorienting and welcoming all at the same time: An invitation and reminder that it’s okay not to be certain and convinced of what’s to come.