100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #28 Tricky – Hell Is Round the Corner

Released : 1995

What do they say, those pictures in your head? One of Adrian Thaws first memories was staring into his mum’s coffin as a barely comprehending four year old, a grim tableau which also opened his 2019 biography Hell Is Round the Corner, a fearless and brutally honest memoir, which just as tragically closed with the death of his daughter Mazy.

After a chaotic upbringing on Bristol’s lawless Knowle West estate led to petty crime, recast as Tricky he was wise enough to choose music over prison, eventually collaborating with Massive Attack on the groundbreaking Blue Lines. Four years later he released Maxinquaye, an album named after his mother and one whose bold use of genre-fluid textures would both complement and build on Portishead’s trip-hop opus, Dummy.

Essential to Maxinquaye’s chemistry was the presence of Martina Topley-Bird, discovered singing whilst sat on the wall outside the house the producer then shared with Mark Stewart. To the same Isaac Hayes sample as had appeared on Portishead’s Glory Box, on Hell Is Round the Corner the duo wove a captivating spell amongst the back and forth. The music was a seductive conflation of hip-hop, dub and soul, whilst the rusty vinyl crackle, smoke fug and disorientation took unwary listeners 4 a.m. deep. These were talking pictures alright, some that spoke a thousand words – and some that spoke none.

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