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Vulnerable
Artist: Tricky
Label: Sanctuary
Length: 13 Tracks, 44:31 minutes

The UK’s trip-hop cult-hero, Tricky, seems to suffer from the syndrome often imposed by the music media; that is, the debut album was so good that everything that follows is hard-pressed to match it. Since earning fame from his early collaboration with Massive Attack, and then releasing the critically acclaimed Maxinquaye in 1995, Tricky seemed to immediately want to boast his way to the top with the narcissisticly titled album, Nearly God. Five more tepidly received albums later, Tricky is feeling vulnerable. 

As usual, Tricky has found a new female vocal partner in an unknown Italian singer, the sultry Costanza Francavilla. Previous duets have included Bjork, PJ Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, and Alison Moyet among many others, so he’s not short on pulling power for good companion voices. 

Also as usual, the vibe is mostly mellow, chill-out grooves (“Stay,” “Hollow,” “Car Crash,” “What is Wrong,” “Love Cats”) with trippy beats melding with occasional rock guitars (“How High”, “Moody”, “Where I’m From”) and spaced-out samples. There is one very cool, radio friendly track, “Antimatter,” which is sure to hit the airwaves soon. The more up-tempo, pure hip-hop grooves include the funky “Ice Pick,” and the album closer, “Search, Search, Survive.” All tracks are shot through with Tricky’s standard husky, whispering growl-rap.

Lyrically, it has some fascinating moments. While Tricky has tended to uphold the hip-hop stereotypes of bombast and self-glorification, on the notable track “Dear God,” he unusually (for a rap song) reveals his vulnerability and gets theological in addressing the burning existential question for believers and non-believers alike; “Why would a good God allow suffering?,” over a melancholy, acoustic backed groove.

Dear God, hope you got the message, and I pray you can make it better down here 
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer 
But all the people that you made in your image, see them starving on their feet 
'Cause they don't get enough to eat from God; I can't believe in you 

Dear God, sorry to disturb you, but I feel that I should be heard loud and clear 
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears 
And all the people that you made in your image, see them fighting in the street 
'Cause they can't make opinions meet about God. I can't believe in you 

Dear God, don't know if you noticed, but your name is on a lot of quotes in this book 
And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look 
And all the people that you made in your image still believing that junk exist 
Well I know it ain't, and so do you. Dear God I can't believe in you

Did you make disease and the diamond blue? 
Did you make mankind after we made you? 

I won't believe in heaven and hell, no saints, no sinners, no devil as well 
No pearly gates, no thorny crown, you're always letting us humans down 
The wars you bring, the babes you drown, those lost at sea and never found 
And it's the same the whole world 'round, the hurt I see helps to compound 
That Father, Son and Holy Ghost is just someone's unholy hoax 
And if you're up there you'd perceive, that my heart's here upon my sleeve 
If there's one thing I don't believe in it's you

How would you reply to Tricky? For all the attempted answers the Church has tried to give this question over the years, it’s still the kicker for those coming to terms with traditional Christianity. It is interesting to note, however, that for this apparently atheistic diatribe, Tricky doesn’t say he doesn’t believe in a God; just that he doesn’t believe in a God like the one described. It’s a shame he doesn’t articulate what kind of God he does believe in. On its own, it is a bleak view of the universe with no hints of hope. 

Again, on the track “Wait for God,” Tricky seems to be thirsty for divine connection but finds little satiation in the traditional Christian understanding. Pat answers clearly don’t sit well with Tricky, but his journey into a more fulfilling spirituality has clearly stagnated somewhere. 

I wait for God and it’s very hard
I am the lamb I don’t understand 
I drink your blood and I’m still thirsty 
I wait for God and it’s very hard 
I’m stuck in the church 
I wait for God, I wait for Christ, I wait for wife, I wait for life 
Tomorrow come, we feel the sun 
Tomorrow come, we feel as one 
The only God, the only Son, Holy from the only one 
We’re on our own now we’re fully grown, I’m all alone when I roam 
Apart from the challenging questions, the rest of the lyrics on Vulnerable coalesce into a kind of drab blob of meaninglessness. Even the attempts at love songs are fairly limp and passionless. Musically, this album might soothe your bones at the end of a hard day, but lyrically it might leave you cold. 

Brendan Boughen  7/20/2003


 

   
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