Knowle West Boy

You can go home again. The niggling question is: Do you want to? After five years of inertia and 12 of living on foreign soil, Tricky has returned to High Street, Knowle West, Bristol—both physically and metaphorically. Yet Knowle West Boy’s pointed nostalgia doesn’t fetch moments of despair, but playful exuberance: the Jamaican dancehall number “Bacative,” with its skip-rope rhythms, and the gritty techno of “Council Estate,” where Tricky energetically choruses the line “Remember, boy / You’re a superstar”—as if he needs to remind himself after seven years of subpar efforts. Knowle West Boy isn’t just Tricky revisiting his musical roots, when he nourished a hardscrabble adolescence with punk, soul and American hip-hop. It’s a return to those same teenage days of immaturity and naiveté. The album’s soundscapes aren’t as textured as previous work; less sonic babble skulks around the edges. Tracks like the rock-rollicking “C’mon Baby” and the bluesy “Puppy Toy” are forceful and stark—almost amateurishly unfinished. If Tricky’s triumvirate of stellar releases (Maxinquaye, Nearly God, and Pre-Millennium Tension) were purple pot smoke unfurling before your face like a wraith, Knowle West Boy is Tricky putting that spliff out on your forearm.