Once or twice a year, the incomprehensible welter of British dance
music throws up an "artist" outsiders can relate to, usually a
frontwoman-beatmaster combo: Soul II Soul, Saint Etienne,
Stereolab, M People, Portishead. Coming out of the loose collective
that spawned yet another of these, Massive Attack, Tricky leaves
most of the verbal decoration to a murmuring young singer named
Martina and saves his best tricks for the mix. His debut album,
Maxinquaye (Island), maintains a languorously funky slow groove
that owes dub, ambient techno, lo-fi, and several strains of hip
hop. Martina's unlikely take on Public Enemy's Black Steel in the
Hour of Chaos should get your attention. So should the pornographic
Abbaon Fat Track.
At 48, John Prine is one of those hasn't-lost-a-step guys. He's not especially prolific--Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings (Oh Boy) is only his third album of the past decade--but he rarely writes a foolish line. And though he's a folkie who doesn't rock as good as he thinks, even in the Nashville he now calls home, nobody is more adept at pinning down the day-to-day details of ordinary, fucked up lives. He's warm, he's sharp, he's funny, he's weird, and his new one is varied and consistent enough to win him the sales 1991's The Missing Years made him dream of again. That doesn't mean it will, of course. But that doesn't mean you should wait for the next one, even though it's sure to come.
Fast Cut: Half disco-ish house, half funk-reggae jungle, all techno, Dance Hits U.K. (Moonshine Music) is another way to get to the incomprehensible welter of British dance music--track by catchy, arbitrarily compiled track.
Playboy, Mar. 1995