WOWEE ZOWEE (10)
March 7, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
MAXINQUAYE | TRICKY | 1995
Living in a hated new city, at a hated new job, with a hated New Age man-sprite for a boss, Tricky’s Maxinquaye arrived in 1995 like antivenom. I’d made a terrible mistake picking up stakes and moving everything I owned from the wild cultural foment of post-wall Berlin to the upper Midwest, where the hotdish was considered cuisine and “Minnesota nice” was a compliment.
With no car and no place to go anyway, head phones afforded blessed escape. Tricky’s raspy, just-woke-up-and-need-a-smoke voice, combined with Martina Topley-Bird’s sweet but streetwise vocals, offered up gritty harmonies of regret, dysfunction, and despondence that succeeded in being both conspiratorial comfort and corrective to my sorry plight.
Maxinquaye’s lyrical disaffection and what came off as night terrors presaged the perils of the Upside Down. Its aural tics — dripping water, cocking guns, scratchy vinyl samples, creaking doors — were tactile and arresting, as opposed to the smooth suburban-family tableaux I’d take in through kitchen windows on my way to and from a stultifying job. I found it all insufferable and self-medicated with Tricky, whose gloomy insight, oozy dread, and general wretchedness hit the brain like an injectable — but the real thing, not the synthetic.
The album is named for his mother, Maxine Quaye, who committed suicide when her boy was four. Adrian Thaws grew up mixed race in a white ghetto in Bristol, a skinny ugly kid with a head shaped like Edvard Munch’s Screamer. He traded in his street name, Tricky Kid, for his stage name, Tricky, then wandered away from Massive Attack to make his own music when he got bored. He went on a creative rampage with his concussive, original, and raw debut album. One winter morning I was listening to Maxinquaye’s “Black Steel” as I waited for a bus in a 20-below-zero blizzard and had an epiphany that I would lose my shit if I did not leave this city. When I did, I was singing Tricky at the top of my lungs.
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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