Anti - 2003 - 44 minutes

Tricky has lost the plot in the most public way imaginable since his rasping raps gave Massive Attack's first two albums their vital edge. His solo debut, 'Maxinquaye', was an instant classic, but the sundry follow-ups read like a Hall of Musical Shame. 'Pre-Millennium Tension', 'Nearly God', 'Juxtapose' and 'Blowback' all failed to build on his early success, seeing the Bristol wordsmith sink into a mire of confused musical collages and lyrical paranoia. The cutting edge had rapidly become a blunt instrument.

As the marketers would say, Tricky is a brand in decline and with Massive Attack's slump and Portishead seemingly AWOL, it looks as if the Bristol scene may have finally exhausted its creative energy. So 'Vulnerable' sees Tricky looking, well, vulnerable, both to hostile critics and an indifferent public.

Surprisingly enough, 'Vulnerable' is a likeable enough record which avoids the worst excesses of Tricky's wilful obscurities. Joining him throughout is Costanza, a female vocalist in the Martina Topley-Bird mould who adds some lighter shades to Tricky's vocal darkness. The swirling balladry of 'Car Crash' shows off their musical chemistry perfectly, as does the late-night smoky version of The Cure's 'Lovecats'. It's an inspired choice in the style of 'Black Steel' from 'Maxinquaye'.

Though hardly another 'Maxinquaye', 'Vulnerable' has occasional flashes on the qualities that made Tricky such a unique musical personality. But too many of the tracks sound like half-formed ideas which haven't yet quite gelled. His trademark sound has become a cliché and the weakness of 'Search, Search, Survive' underlines the problems facing Tricky. He might have survived, but he's still searching for the glories of the past.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Stay Antimatter - Ice Pick - Car Crash - Dear God - How High - What Is Wrong - Hollow - Moody - Wait for God - Where I'm From - The Love Cats - Search, Search, Survive - Antimatter - Receive Us