Tindersticks

TrackAlbum
MarblesTindersticks
SeaweedThe Second Tindersticks Album
BearsuitBBC Sessions
If You're Looking For A Way OutSimple Pleasure
ChilitetimeCan Our Love ...
Sometimes It HurtsWaiting For The Moon
All The LoveThe Hungry Saw
Factory GirlsFalling Down A Mountain
ChocolateThe Something Rain
Whispering Guns, pts.1,2 & 3Ypres

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Tindersticks photo

Tindersticks (l to r): Al Macaulay (drums, percussion), Dave Boulter (organ, accordion), Dickon Hinchliffe (guitar, strings), Stuart Staples (vocals), Neil Fraser (guitar), Mark Colwill (bass)

 

Contributor: Paul Jenkins

Picture the scene. Nottingham, 1991. It’s a mixed year for the city. After many years of trying, Brian Clough has finally led Nottingham Forest to the FA Cup Final only to lose to a disastrous own goal by local hero Des Walker. The city’s most famous son, Robin Hood, is again immortalised in cinema. Kevin Costner donned the flights and tights and for several terrible weeks, the song’s love theme, Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do (I Do It For You) is No.1 in the charts. A spate of reported sightings of UFOs above the city proves to be inconclusive. It is a summer of thwarted dreams, troubled romance and unsettled skies.

Amidst this city sickness a struggling local indie band, Asphalt Ribbons, are undergoing a curious transformation. Their new aim – to take a curious blend of Scott Walker, Lee Hazelwood and Serge Gainsbourg into the charts dressed in neither the lumberjack chic of the emerging grunge scene nor the flared trousers and cagoules of the dying Madchester one. They will come tailored in lounge suits with beautifully crooned songs about exsanguinated sheep, imminent beatings and the erotic dreams of Spaniards. They will have a mysterious new name.

Unsurprising then I must report that, for over twenty years now, the charts have not been unduly troubled by Tindersticks.

Recently, I was kindly given permission by the curators of these fine pages to gush lovingly about those erstwhile purveyors of lo-fi comedown folk, Arab Strap. Someone once said that the Strap were music for anyone who had ever woken up in a stranger’s bed with pubes in their mouth.

With that enduring image in mind, one should then think of Tindersticks as music for anyone who has ever just been caught in the above scenario by an enraged loved one. Imagine a Bond film where, moments after adding the notch of the femme fatale to that much carved bedpost of his, Bond is struck by a terrible yearning to get absolutely hammered on absinthe in a Gauloise-scented drinking den. This isn’t suave, cocksure Bond as played by Roger Moore; this is the parallel universe Bond where 007 is played by Harry H Corbett or James Bolam. No Aston Martins in sight, no state of the art gadgets, this is Bond with holes in his shoes, failing to hitch a lift home.

Tindersticks music is cinematic yet intimate, the sound of exquisite dreams being interrupted by terrible reality. It’s losing your trousers at Monte Carlo, cheating on Miss World with a Roly Poly, ordering champagne in a Wetherspoons.

To enter their world is like finding oneself invited down into the wine cellar of an expert collector. You like music? You’ve tasted nothing … this, this is where the good stuff is kept.

Quick note: Their most popular and well known songs, Tiny Tears and Travelling Light, are of course amongst their very best work and would feature in any proper top 10. But I’m in Toppermost country and have decided to play by their rules, fast and loose and with scant regard for the already familiar.

That said, have the video to Travelling Light.

 

The sound of betrayals, beatings and a hint that worse might follow, Marbles contains a malevolence rarely found in early 90s pop. It was a bumper time for the organ in British rock music, the Charlatans and Inspirals had both let joyous Hammonds loose upon the young kids’ tiny minds. This was a reminder of how dark an instrument it could be in the wrong hands …

 

“Would you prefer a stone, that I chose for you?” I don’t think he’s talking engagement rings. I don’t know what Seaweed is about and I don’t want to. Elliptical lyrics, inaudibly sung, a band teetering on the edge of tuning their instruments – these aren’t promising ingredients, I know, but this is a song that will pass the casual listener by. The attentive listener will put the needle back to the song’s beginning. And repeatedly.

 

The version of Bearsuit, recorded for the Mark Radcliffe show (still, for my money, in its mid-90s late night incarnation, the best Radio 1 show ever), reveals the comedic side of the band. It’s either the most inappropriate lullaby ever or something even more sinister than that. This is like hearing Ivor Cutler collaborating with Nick Cave.

 

As you would imagine for a band who would probably have a seamstress and sommelier on their tour bus, this is a group with seriously good taste. Their choice of covers down the years has ranged from Pavement to Otis Redding to Ennio Morricone. Their take on Odyssey’s 1980 top ten disco smash, If You’re Looking For A Way Out, was to make it a last dance slowie.

 

From their underestimated soul period, Chilitetime is an epic slab of something approaching optimism by Tindersticks standards. It’s not quite the sweet doo wop tinged soul that the song title suggests, more a slow-building piece of chamber rock. You’d be disappointed if it was anything else.

 

Another sweet selection from a fine tradition of Tindersticks duets, here on Sometimes It Hurts the late Lhasa de Sela provides exquisite layers of additional melancholy and unintended poignancy – some might ask whether Tindersticks really need to find new depths of sadness. I say, be off with you sonny Jim, move over and listen to your Kasabian albums, this is no place for the cloth-eared.

 

Like the love theme from an erotic spaghetti Western, All The Love is softly strummed guitars and shuffling percussion. The occasional chime of a distant bell, the sighing of a bereaved senorita; if Tindersticks were a country, there’s a good chance they’d be somewhere dusty and heartbroken, and this would be their national anthem.

 

Factory Girls has nothing to do with the Stones song of a similar name and as far removed from that band’s cocky swagger as it’s possible to get; you wouldn’t get Sir Michael of Jaggertown mourning pitifully “it’s the wine that makes me sad, not the love I never had” – but the song’s climax is a thing of joyous, defiant wonder.

 

Revisiting the gallows humour/short story pop crossover of My Sister (from the second album), in just nine minutes Chocolate displays more ambition than the entire Red Hot Chili Peppers back catalogue. An everyday tale of old men, bedsits and pool table etiquette that builds to a spectacular finale, if they ever remake “Tales Of The Unexpected”, this would be both the theme tune and the opening episode.

 

When they’re not composing suitably downbeat music for their grim noir landscape, Tindersticks are often trusted with soundtracking the visions of others, notably the French film maker Claire Denis. Commisioned by the War museum at Ypres to make a piece commemorating the centenary of the First World War, Tindersticks responded with the Ypres album, opening with Whispering Guns, a 15 minute journey through a dense, distant, ambient fog of unimaginable terror.

 

 

Tindersticks official website

Tinderbits – a blog about Tindersticks – news, info

Stuart A. Staples discography

Dickon Hinchliffe official website

Keyboards player David Boulter ranks every Tindersticks album

Asphalt Ribbons discography

Tindersticks biography (iTunes)

Paul Jenkins is a pop music obsessive living in fear of being found out as the owner of two Tight Fit singles. His opinions on life in general can be gleaned from his Twitter account (@fourfoot). He lives in South Wales with his wife, daughter and a collection of Fall gig anecdotes.

TopperPost #517

2 Comments

  1. Johny Nocash
    May 1, 2016

    Lovely writing. I bought ‘City Sickness’ and decided immediately they would never better it. Then I bought ‘No More Affairs’ cos of the sleeve. After the description of ‘Seaweed’ above I delved in again, and shall now have to delve still deeper.

  2. Gary/The Autumn Stones
    May 19, 2016

    Some lovely selections, and observations — esp. the fact that the delicate downcast dirge of “Factory Girls” DOES have a joyous climax.
    Toppermost request: Someone give me 10 tracks on TSticks male protagonists, ending with “How He Entered” as the ultimate distillation of ALL OF THEM!!!

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