Rock music: Tricky: coolest jerk of them all

I'M NOT SURE whether Tricky is a good advert for life in New York or not. He emigrated there in 1996, saying that the city was "more apace with my mind", and judging by his latest music, both the man and Manhattan are a lot noisier, more upfront, and more violent than Bristol ever will be. On Tricky's new album, Angels With Dirty Faces (Island), the mean streets make an appearance in the hip-hop beats and jittery jazz rhythms - and, less propitiously, in the lyrics about the record business, the stand-by of every US rapper with nothing to say. At the London Forum, the attitude of his adoptive home manifested itself more dramatically.

Previous Tricky concerts have wavered between being impenetrable and as dull as ditchwater, but on Thursday all the anger that grumbles in the background of his records elbowed its way New Yorkishly to the fore. A full live band pounded out feverish thrash metal, and Tricky spat and barked his lyrics, instead of mumbling and gargling like he used to (they remained almost entirely impossible to make out, mind you, but it's still a positive development).

What was most heartening about this cathartic performance was that, although its ostensible purpose was to promote Angels With Dirty Faces, it didn't replicate the album at all. Tricky sounded as if he's been sharing a rehearsal studio with Henry Rollins, and looked as if he's been sharing a gym with him, but his experimental sensibility remained. The best song was "Anti Histamine", a stunning mutation of Blondie's "Heart of Glass". The band produced a juddering industrial grind, and Cath Coffey sang with cool langour, oblivious to the madman ranting apoplectically, "Take your clothes off," to her right. He jerked violently from side to side, his head bouncing from one shoulder to the other, as if he were being shaken by an invisible giant, and could stay on his feet only by gripping tightly to the microphone. New York is never like this on Friends.

A few weeks ago, I was posted a publicity shot of Unbelievable Truth, a photo designed to be reproduced in magazines, where it might snag the readers' attention and make them shout, "Yes! I want these people in my life!" Unbelievable Truth's picture depicts the three band members sitting in an anonymous white room. One young man is contemplating the wooden table in front of him. He's looking glum. A second young man is gazing idly into the first young man's left ear. He, too, is decidedly down in the mouth. By way of a contrast, a third young man, wearing a woolly jumper, isn't really focusing on anything. His eyes have glazed over, but he has just enough of a frown to assure us that he is not, and perhaps never has been, in a party mood. There was a long debate in the office about whether or not this photo was ironic. Unbelievable Truth could be parodying a wilfully morose, existential indie group. But no. Now that I've seen them in concert, I'm pretty certain that they didn't explode in a fit of giggles the second after the picture was taken.

The Truth, as I suppose we must call them, play slow, melancholy, country- tinged ballads, wrapped in a soft blanket of acoustic guitars and minor chords. They're like American Music Club with a hint of Jeff Buckley and a dash of Radiohead: Unbelievable Truth's singer/songwriter/ guitarist is Andy Yorke, brother of Radiohead's Thom. As Yorke the elder was getting rich and famous, Yorke the younger was studying Russian literature in Moscow, strumming his guitar in his spare time. And considering that this scenario could be something Graeme Garden would come up with on a Radio 4 comedy panel game having been asked how the saddest song in the world might be composed, then it's to Unbelievable Truth's credit that their debut album, Almost Here (Virgin), isn't depressing at all. You couldn't call it bright and breezy, but the choruses and harmonies are more uplifting than those of many a pop song.

No such luck at the London Astoria 2. The amplification gave the band a harsh, clanking edge, and when the connections between leads and guitars started buzzing, the atmosphere was dissipated completely; the Truth's songs aren't strong enough to stand up without it. Nigel Powell, the drummer, deserves a mention, not just for his keening, REM-style backing vocals, but also for defying the band's policy on sensible haircuts and sporting a Hare Krishna ponytail. Otherwise, the band plodded through a grey, shapeless set with all the flair and dynamism of their publicity photo. Truth, on this occasion, was not beauty.

After all that doom and gloom, a review of Errol Brown was supposed to be a lighthearted "And finally ... " to cheer us all up. What could be more un-Tricky and un-Unbelievable Truth than a night of mindless Seventies nostalgia at the London Palladium? The wedding band Brown had with him weren't a patch on Hot Chocolate at their hottest, and Brown himself was that living contradiction in terms, a barely mobile funk-singer. In a silver suit, he looked utterly ageless - the benefit of being lean, male, black and shaven-headed - but he moved like an arthritic head of state.

All nice and risible, one might think, but these deficiencies had an unexpectedly positive effect: they forced me to focus on the songs. Hot Chocolate aficionados will have to forgive me, but I'd never listened to "Brother Louie" and "Emma" before, never realised that they were bold urban folk ballads that dealt sensitively with suicide, prejudice and broken dreams, while remaining, let's not forget, toe-tapping pop tunes. I'd never noticed, either, how well they're complemented by Brown's startlingly sincere, yearning voice (listen to him cry, "You don't remember me, do you?" on "It Started With a Kiss"). The show built up to the inevitable "You Sexy Thing", but even this has a spirituality which you don't find in many songs with "sex" in the title. Errol Brown: you sexy, yet surprisingly thoughtful, caring and complex thing.

Errol Brown: Empire, W12 (0181 740 7474), Sat.

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...

    Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Bedfordshire - £30,000 + Excellent package

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - Fire Security Systems - OTE £60k

    £27500 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating in the South East pri...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn