It’s always fun to hear what the artist has to say: Mick Jagger’s bafflement of Exile on Main Street‘s acclaim, Common deeming Universal Mind Control to be perfect, Tricky saying that False Idols is “musically better” than Maxinquaye. The obvious story is, it isn’t, and it doesn’t even try to be. This is music that takes zero risks (as opposed to his misguided but well-intentioned previous albums) but offers zero rewards as a result. It’s formulaic: Tricky lays down a beat, picks a sample, speaks his way through the verses and has Martina’s replacement, Francesca Belmont, sing her way through the choruses; only one song lasts longer than 3 and a half minutes. The few songs that successfully leave impressions: “Parenthesis”, for its panic attack-inducing guitar (though the Antlers’ Peter Silberman sounds lost until it comes on), and “Is That Your Life,” for its funky riff.
As for the rest of these songs, whenever any of them quote a better song, it’s completely overtaken by it. “Somebody’s Sins”, where the two vocalists repeat Patti Smith’s introduction to “Gloria,” is emblematic of the album’s laziness; every time “Valentine” pauses for the sample of Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine,” it knocks the song’s momentum to its knees; “Does It” isn’t a sample of piledriving bass line from the Ropes’ “Love is a Chain Store,” it is “Love is a Chain Store”; Japan’s “Ghosts” provides a hooky interval on “Hey Love,” that contains one of the album’s more exciting drum programming, but said interval is used too often for it’s own good. But the paradoxical thing is, these songs are more memorable than the other ones, so … yeah.