Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Singer Stuart Staples’ clipped East Midlands baritone croon, draped in those alt-lounge arrangements in which it sounds so at home, casts him in the role of a Nottinghamshire Gainsbourg, spinning barroom tales of desire and loss as he works his way through a packet of Lamberts and a crate of IPA. Staples is interested in effects, not causes — in sore heads, sore throats, and sore bits, in the way lust and boredom distort and arrange reality, highlighting risk and danger as lewd protuberances from a brown, decaying canvas. We glimpse the first-person flâneur of these ballad-narratives piecemeal, as if through smoke — paunchy but charming; geeky but not bookish; absolutely ravenous for luxury.
The daylight is fading into the dusk of a Friday evening and you’re stood at a bus stop en route to that first date with the partner of your dreams. You’re flushed with excitement: possibilities, opportunities, futures; and there is a song in your heart. But not everything is right. It’s raining… soaking your shoes and flattening down your carefully sculpted hair.
It was a mere coincidence that Tindersticks' original lineup dissolved not long after their most faithful students, the National, broke overground with their third album, Alligator. But in retrospect it's hard not to view that moment as a symbolic passing of the torch, akin to proud working-class parents sending their kids off to an Ivy League school in anticipation of future success. While the National's more melodramatic take on Tindersticks' patented pop-noir balladry has landed them in hockey arenas and presidential-campaign videos, Stuart Staples and co.
Review Summary: saxophones, but not like in "Careless Whisper," and missed opportunitiesThere’s no real point describing “Chocolate” to you when it’s laid so bare itself, but anyway: it feels more like listening to an audio-book drowned out by the sound of your folks listening to lounge music in the next room, or having a good novel ruined by the distracting jazzy shit playing on your headphones. As a narrative piece, it tries to engage on the most direct of levels, taking its storytelling as seriously as purists take drone music; this story, told in plain spoken-word, seems to run and run, and its backing track is so caught in the rhythms of the treacly story- a simple night out, but there’s a twist- that it seems impossible to shake it. It's not for want of trying.
I’ve made a couple of mistakes when it comes to approaching the music of Britain’s Tindersticks. I’ll tell you the most recent one first. I obtained a digital copy for review of their latest and ninth album, The Something Rain, and I decided to give it a listen while doing some of the copyediting work that I do for PopMatters. I thought it’d be nice musical wallpaper as I went about my business applying my metaphorical red pen to articles written by others, knowing what I know about the band (and more on that later).
"Chocolate", the nine-minute opening track on Tindersticks' third album since regrouping in 2007, is nothing if not arresting. Against quietly strummed backing, percussionist David Boulter takes centre stage to tell an evocative and oddly affecting tale of a barroom hook-up (complete with unexpected conclusion) that sounds like Arab Strap covering the Velvet Underground's "The Gift". It works brilliantly.
Stuart Staples' shivering baritone is as haunting as ever on Tindersticks' ninth album, but it is David Boulter who opens the record, with the tender, spoken-word Chocolate. Twenty years on from their debut, and nine from their 2003 hiatus/lineup change, Tindersticks' maudlin, jazz-streaked music feels as vividly wearied as ever. Loss and a search for release suffuse the album: Show Me Everything's taut percussion and strip-tease bassline create an air of subdued desire, as Staples sings of "latex on my fingertips, we touch through glass, we feel nothing"; Medicine sends up a bleak, string-laden prayer for the refuge of that same numbness.
The Something Rain, Tindersticks' ninth album, stubbornly holds fast to the group's branded, nocturnal avant-pop, one that holds within it everything from elegantly textured electronics and touches of jazz to cabaret, chanson, and melancholy indie pop. Vocalist Stuart Staples' signature dulcet baritone is as haunting as ever: it shivers almost constantly atop a mix that contains everything from carefully layered keyboards, bowed bass and cellos to spidery guitars, vibes, minimal drum kits, reeds, and loops. That Tindersticks' sonic universe is so carefully attended and guarded doesn't mean there isn't growth or daring -- this is the most urgent and erotically chargerd recording they've made in over a decade -- it's just that it's (mostly) very subtle.
I don’t want to give away the story of Chocolate. It’s not fair to ruin it. What I will say is that I burst out laughing. Then, a few moments later I thought “aww, that’s quite sweet.” I don’t know what it is about Tindersticks but you expect a certain level of seriousness in the spoken word tracks, maybe it’s due to the gorgeous My Sister from Tindersticks II or that they’ve always seemed ever so slightly pretentious, writing scores for French films or having songs of an offensive length.
A change is as good as a rest, they say, though following recent lacklustre output, most right-minded Tindersticks fans would probably have conceded that a trip to the vets was the only humane course of action for a band that had brought joy to so many, but was now heading towards infirmity and dribbling. Stuart Staples went off to do his solo thing but couldn't quite extricate himself fully when the time came, and a band that had been truly loved - revered even - had driven into a boring cul-de-sac of its making. The houses all looked the same, and the roses in the front gardens were wilting, sadly.
After spending part of 2011 presenting live shows in support of their box set of film scores, recently released on Constellation, the Tindersticks continue to find themselves in a cinematic mood. Their ninth album in 20 years kicks off with "Chocolate," a languid spoken work piece by David Boulter, a seduction drama with a quirky twist in its tail (à la Crying Game), given a slinky boost by Terry Edwards' saxophone contributions. That peculiar opening gambit showcases both the band's now-effortless interplay and a sense of whimsy that often risks invisibility within the dressed-up austerity of their complex arrangements.
While some bands have a few hits and burn out, others produce consistently strong records that skirt under the fickle chart radar. Tindersticks fall firmly into the latter camp and their latest LP, recorded in bursts between May 2010 and August 2011 follows in the slipstream of their recent soundtrack work for Claire Denis. On this latest release the quintet are joined by a host of regular collaborators including the soulful Gina Foster whose powerful vocals are deployed to great effect on emotive cut ‘This Fire Of Autumn’ and the dark menace of ‘Show Me Everything’.
Album nine from the Nottingham avant-pop outfit is as unconventional as ever. Mischa Pearlman 2012 A grainy, gritty depiction of real life, The Something Rain is the ninth album from the Nottingham avant-pop outfit led by Stuart Staples. It begins with Chocolate, a 10-minute spoken word tale set over an ambient, off-kilter, lounge-jazz soundscape, whose devilish punch line offsets the lugubrious, dour atmosphere of the piece.