Release Date: Feb 16, 2010
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative
Consistency is underrated. Four years after shedding half of its members, among them co-songwriter and occasional lead singer Dickon Hinchliffe, Tindersticks delivers its eighth album, showing few signs of any significant change. In fact, since toning down the suavely opulent strings that wafted through its first three long-players, the English group has continued to mine the same sort of stark, elegantly brooding pop found on Falling Down the Mountain.
It can’t be easy; critically-lauded at the start of your career, then just a handful of years later, you’re largely ignored by the music press and almost considered a niche interest. What do you do, exactly? Do you just carry on doing what you were doing before, in the aim of finding whatever it was that propelled you to such lofty heights in the first place? Or do you change completely, hoping that your new-found direction will earn you some kudos for not resting on your laurels? That’s been the dilemma facing Tindersticks since the late 20th Century, and it’s an extremely unfair position for them to be in. Almost victims of their own success, their opening trilogy of albums (self-titled releases in both 1993 and 1995, and 1997’s Curtains) were irresistible baroque chamber-pop, full of surprises and, unusually, never outstayed their welcome at over an hour.
After eighteen years, they still soldier on... After a somewhat revised version of Tindersticks broke their five-year recording silence with 2008's The Hungry Saw, it took less than two years for the group (again with a few modifications to the lineup) to compound that successful return with another new album -- their eighth overall -- which stands as perhaps even more of an achievement and pleasant surprise than its very fine predecessor. While Saw offered a few rare glimmers of positivity and sweetness from Stuart Staples and company, it was essentially business as usual for the perennially moody Britons.
2008 was a turbulent year for the U.K.-based Tindersticks. After parting ways with founding members Dickon Hinchliffe and Alistair Macaulay, the remaining members of the band opted for a new line-up and a complete dissection of their distinctively brooding, R&B-tinged sound. What resulted was The Hungry Saw, an album so sparse it bordered on bleakness.
It would be fair to say that Stuart Staples is one of the most unfirly anonymous singer-songwriters around. While not wishing to dwell too much on pointless comparisons, one wonders had he originated from somewhere more glamorous than the suburbs of Nottingham if his name would be uttered amidst the same breathing spaces as such esteemed troubadours as Nick Cave, Will Oldham or Bryan Ferry. As it happens, his vocal styling and deftly monosyllabic approach to storytelling means he's levered bits of all three into a devilishly unique concoction, and through his Tindersticks outlet - now a staggering 18 years young - has created a record that certainly rivals, if not betters any of its three predecessors from the past decade.
On the Tindersticks website recently, there was a video splash page announcing the new album that featured footage of the band playing its title track and introducing them one at a time. The first member mentioned was keyboardist and co-founder David Boulter. He's one of the architects of the band's sound, and his piano and organ have been signatures of the band for almost 20 years.
Tindersticks' return to form on their eighth album isn't evident when you first press play. But look past the uninteresting six-minute jazz drone that opens the album and you'll see that the prolific English group still has the enough soul to succeed. [rssbreak] Stuart Staples's quavery, near-congested baritone has a pleasant tickle, especially on album highlights like the sombre Factory Girls and the playful Motownish Harmony Around My Table.
To be honest, I’ve never really gotten over Tindersticks’ eponymous second album (sometimes called Tindersticks II). It’s flawless. I come back to it every winter, as if there’s something about this uniquely British melancholia—the sweeping string arrangements, Stuart Staples’s haunting baritone (enough to make Nick Cave sound positively pubescent), lyrics of regret and longing—that simply fits with desolate, snowy landscapes.
The sound of a band rediscovering themselves. Andrew Mueller 2010 Falling Down a Mountain, Tindersticks’ eighth album, is the sound of a band rediscovering themselves. Its immediate predecessor, 2008’s The Hungry Saw, felt an afterthought. That record ended a five-year hiatus during which it seemed – judging by singer Stuart Staples’ budding solo career – that Tindersticks might have ground to a terminal halt.