Lonely Guest

Lonely Guest (False Idols)

Contact Sam McAllister about Lonely Guest

If it wasn’t for the global lockdown, we might never have had the chance to hear one of this year’s most intriguing and inventive albums. 

Lonely Guest was conceived and put together over the last 18 months by one of British music’s true innovators: Tricky. But as he’s keen to make clear: this ain’t no Tricky album. Rather it’s a thrilling meeting of musical mavericks, with the likes IdlesJoe Talbot pitting his unique approaches to songwriting against Tricky’s otherworldly production. From an unsettling tale of isolation courtesy of Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith (‘Christmas Trees’) to the grunge stylings of Marta’s ‘Move Me’, via the tense storytelling of London rapper Kway’s ‘On A Move’, these diverse statements come together as a bold artistic statement of their own. The late artistic visionary and legend  Lee “Scratch” Perry features vocals on ‘Atmosphere’ with Tricky and Marta. It is with great sadness that Tricky and the False Idols team acknowledge and honour Lee “Scratch” Perry’s passing.

Yet incredibly none of this was planned. Tricky had been expecting to be on the road throughout 2020, promoting the stark-yet-beautiful songs from his mesmerising last solo record Fall To Pieces. Instead, to keep his relentlessly creative mind busy during the pandemic, he began working through various collaborations with other artists … and realised they could work together.

Lonely Guest opens with one of two tracks by False Idol’s new queen Marta, who Tricky came across while on tour in Europe, swiftly recruiting her to keep his show on the road. Her talents for singing and melodic invention continue to astound her mentor. The opening title track adds splashes of atmospheric keyboard to her vocals and virtually nothing else. What inspired such a minimalist approach? Apparently the guitarist pissed Tricky off and so he removed all of his parts, realising he preferred the track in its more skeletal form. 

Welcome to the way a true maverick works – where chance, errors and luck are the order of the day and “rules” get thrown out of the window. Take ‘Atmosphere’, in which the perfect backing for Lee “Scratch” Perry’s shamanic vocals was found by looping the “horrible noise” that occurred after a mistake by Tricky’s trusty cellist. Or ‘Pipe Dreamz’, a track that came about after Tricky clicked on a YouTube link by mistake: he liked the song, tracked down the vocal stems and reworked them away from synthy pop banger into a stark, minor key soul number – and all without ever meeting the singer Rina Mushonga. 

At times the artists pushed each other to achieve more. When Joe Talbot sent back his vocals for the single ‘Pre War Tension’ they were so unique – “like a strange rapper” – that Tricky forced himself to write an entire new musical backdrop of a quality to match it: the result is a rock/rap hybrid not unlike ‘Black Steel’, and with a particularly unsettling Tricky rap for good measure.  

Other standouts include the smooth, Sade-esque soul of Oh Land’s contribution ‘Under’ – a 15 year old song Tricky dusted down and reworked – and an updating of Murkage Dave’s ‘Pay My Taxes’, where beautiful sweeps of cello now adorn the lyric about racial profiling (“Bredren I pay my taxes/You can’t talk to me like I’m a dickhead”). ‘Big Bang Blues’ brings things to a dramatic conclusion, with a huge vocal from Breanna Barbara that would sound like it was taken from a film score if the music didn’t slowly fall apart around it. 


Longtime fans of Tricky will, of course, notice the parallels between Lonely Guest and his 1996 album Nearly God, which saw him collaborating with the likes of Terry Hall, Björk and Siouxsie Sioux in order to free himself from the trip-hop label critics were trying to box him in with. Here lies a similar sense of freedom from expectations.

The process was so enjoyable for Tricky, in fact, that it led him to an important realisation – that Lonely Guest could signal a brave new frontier for his label False Idols, shifting its focus away from his own material and towards releasing music from other artists: Marta’s forthcoming debut, along with plans for more Lonely Guest content.

Lonely Guest, then, is a project that offers mental respite, yet with no drop-off in quality. Instead, you can consider it a creative rejuvenation, one that reacquaints this musical trailblazer with the myriad of influences he once happily crammed into his early records. Even he sees the parallels with his game-changing debut Maxinquaye, where punk rock, hip hop, reggae and soul could all coexist alongside each other. 

“I realised with this album that it was like having space,” he says. “It’s a kind of freedom.” Then he adds what could be a motto for his entire career no matter in what guise: “I realised I could do whatever the fuck I wanted.”