First, the bad news. There are no new tricks on BlowBack, the star-studded 2001 comeback by Tricky, the pioneering trip-hopper that wandered his way into the wilderness. He wandered so far that nobody really cared anymore if he had anything to say -- particularly because he wound up saying the same thing, slightly differently, over and over again. He doesn't escape from this problem here, yet he's found a map -- and that map is craft. He knew this before, since the best moments of Angels With Dirty Faces and Juxtapose were when he knew how to spin his signatures just right, so they jelled into something brilliant. He has the same gift here, and he extends it throughout the record, so this is the first record that really plays smoothly from start to finish since Pre-Millennium Tension. That, of course, isn't the same thing as being as good, since he has ceased to innovate, and he has a couple of annoying flaws, including his tendency to create one mood and sustain it without developing it, plus his love of dancehall toasting. The thing is, for all of his genius, Tricky doesn't really have the greatest taste in the world. Yes, he's worked with Björk and PJ Harvey, but he's also brought Bush into the studio, and here Live's Ed Kowalczyk, three members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Cyndi Lauper all contribute sonic coloring. The genius of Tricky is, he knows how to pull out the best in such unlikely collaborators, making it sound like a natural extension of his work. Then again, it could just be that John Frusciante and Flea know "Brand New You're Retro" so well, it's easy to turn it out again on "Wonder Woman." So, it's a mixed bag, but it plays sharper than his albums of late. Yes, there are some astonishing slips -- the backing track of "Something in the Way" sounds great, but Hawkman, the ragga bane of this album, castrates it of its power -- but, at this point, that's a given with Tricky. Once you get past that, once you stop expecting genius -- or at least something that matches Maxinquaye (or even Tension) -- it's much easier to enjoy BlowBack.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine