It’s not hard to hear the difference between trip-hop star Tricky and his imitators if you’re actually listening–most of the Johnny-come-latelies graft sluggish hip-hop beats to urbane soul-lite without even a hint of the sensual menace of Tricky’s 1995 debut, Maxinquaye. But Tricky has nonetheless made his blend of hip-hop, dub, rock, and soul progressively darker, leaner, and more claustrophobic in an attempt to shake off the lame comparisons. And if 1996’s Pre-Millennium Tension scraped the meat from Maxinquaye’s bones, then his new Angels With Dirty Faces (all three albums are on Island) digs desperately at their marrow. While Tricky built his earliest work largely from samples, live musicians–from jazz drummer Gene Lake to Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian–provide almost all the music on the new album. Paradoxically, though, it sounds far more unnatural than anything he’s done before. The songs are packed with blues guitar riffs, throbbing bass grooves, and propulsive beats; heard individually, each carefully clipped component projects a clear logic. But when they’re melded together, with Tricky rasping monotonously about how the media and the music industry have abused, exploited, and misunderstood him, they form something disorienting, almost suffocating. He’s clearly got an inflated view of his importance in the marketplace, but in “Analyze Me” he does hit on a persistently ignored truth about music that comes out of dance culture: “For all those who want to analyze me,” he warns, “start it off in the hips.” Saturday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Crump-RSP.