Release Date: Oct 14, 2013
Record label: Lucky Dog Recordings
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Chamber Pop
Most people in bands don't stick together for 21 years in the business without having at least some carnage wreaked upon their lives. Tindersticks have reached that milestone this year, albeit with a lengthy hiatus behind them and a few ex-members tossed to the roadside along the way. Such drama, if it can be called that, is perfectly fitting for this band, who seemed to arrive with a weight of experience on their shoulders after forming from the ashes of Asphalt Ribbons in the early 1990s.
To mark 21 years in the ‘mumbling lounge lizard’ business, Tindersticks hit Abbey Road to re-record a selection of tracks that they felt had been “lost along the way”. For better or worse, it means we’re not treated to/horrified by modern versions of perfect gritty classics from their superlative 1993 debut album, such as ‘Patchwork’, ‘Drunk Tank’ or ‘Marbles’. But with no grimy Formica boldly wiped clean, the ‘improvements’ here are virtually imperceptible for those of us unconcerned with rim-tap reverb.
You've got to admire Tindersticks' endurance. Somehow, Stuart A. Staples' ensemble has managed to make it beyond the 20-year mark. That's despite the cinematic pretensions, the lack of any discernible hit, and, perhaps most impressively, Staples' own inimitable croon. In almost every conceivable ….
Over an illustrious 21-year career, Tindersticks have been a lot of things, but I’m not sure they’ve ever been baffling before. And I’m not sure how else to describe Across Six Leap Years, ten of their songs rerecorded in a way that’s close enough to the original versions to cause confusion. It’s not a best-of or greatest hits collection; the band describe these as songs that got lost along the way.
Tindersticks have done a very curious thing to commemorate their 20 years of recording. Checking in to Abbey Road, they’ve re-recorded 10 tracks from their back catalogue, released or otherwise, that they wanted another crack at. Mercifully, there’s no radical reworking. If anything, the chosen songs sound even more like they did before – if perhaps only because of the way we remember them.
One has to wonder at the motivation behind Tindersticks' Across Six Leap Years. This look back celebrates their 21st anniversary. That said, after their hiatus in 2006, they returned as a trio instead of a sextet, with guest musicians augmenting each record beginning with The Hungry Saw. These ten tracks were recorded at Abbey Road.
Across Six Leap Years is a suitably idiosyncratic anniversary album from Tindersticks. Conceived as a celebration of the band's twentieth year in recording, it does not include any tracks from their 1993 debut, often feels more somnambulant than celebratory, and comprises a highly unusual track selection, including few fan favourites and two tracks that originally appeared on Stuart Staples's solo albums. For many people, Tindersticks evoke an iconography of cliché imagery and associations: smoke-filled cafés, vin-rouge-soaked decadence, seemingly ceaseless melancholy, and the cinematography of Claire Denis' nocturnal Paris.
If it’s an ingenious way of marking 21 years of Tindersticks, and for that matter ten studio albums, rather than just whatever passes in their sphere as a greatest hits compilation, Across Six Leap Years might as well on first glance have ‘FANS ONLY’ stamped right across the mastertape. Even then it might backfire, given being a fan of the Nottingham-originating late night orchestral torch song/lounge soul collective involves being quite the collector anyway, so they’re most likely to already know the assorted soundtrack albums, out-takes and solo side projects that the originals of the back catalogue songs re-recorded here come from. In fairness seven of the ten tracks date from after the band’s initial dissolution in 2005, only half of the original line-up still around, and the reconstituted Tindersticks are on quite a roll at the moment, quiet highlight of last year The Something Rain sketching out a looser, more confident identity more capable of rolling between beauteousness and reflexive individuality.