"Mellow" might have been recorded in a shipyard–augmenting Jack Hersca's nagging if fetching guitar and Gene Lake's steady if seething drums is a rhythm element that suggests a boat whistle heard across a moonless harbor. Next track the artist makes his pop bid with a catchy femme-chorus refrain and a guest star: Polly Jean Harvey, what a draw! For another three songs, a decent level of musical amenity is maintained: Martina's crooning tale of woe underpinned by low-register guitar/keyb riffs of unspecified origin and Calvin Weston's free drumming, three-note distorto hook beneath Tricky's speed-mumble, xylophonish tinkle countered by a keyb belch like an engine that won't catch. Thereafter the residues of grimy technologies settle into permanent low-level disorder: foghorns lowing, brakes complaining, clocks sounding across windswept nights, locomotives struggling uphill. He's a hater not a fighter, and the devil is in his details. So give that man a set of horns–he's earned them.
As always with Tricky, the right idea for pop isn't necessarily just right for him. Beats, of course; songs, sure; a band, who could say no? And right, individual tracks connect pretty good–hot lesbian porn, you devil you. Yet though his soundscapes be obscure and forbidding, they're what he's great at; his rap affinities and rock dreams are off the point, especially in the studio. So the best thing about these shapely selections is that they remain obscure and forbidding as they stand up and announce themselves. Second-best is their scorn for criminal pretensions, always a boon from a borderline nihilist.