To judge their first two post-hiatus releases, Tindersticks
LPs required two yardsticks: one for how the band’s new work fit in with its
post-5-year-hiatus output, and another for how it measured up in their
two-decade long catalog. No more, though. Judged by either yardstick, The Something Rain is not just the
band’s best since they reconvened in 2008; measured against their earlier work,
these nine songs shadow the younger Tindersticks in all kinds of compelling
ways, trading in youthful adventure for expert-like craftsmanship.
After all, few of us win when compared to our younger selves.
We’re not as pretty, not as fit and not quite as sharp – why, the very idea of
an all-nighter requires a nap first. Those early Tindersticks’ records literally
vibrated with sexual tension; lust and frustration sparred and flirted from
song to song like a randy Michael Fassbender on the prowl. Tindersticks could boil
down a song title to “Jism” and yet imbue it with complex meaning by capturing all the psychic levels of Freudian angst at
work in the pursuit of its, um, well, release.
maestros of the lush and lecherous no longer define youthful late-night hunting
parties and corner-booth-of-the-bar assignations. Their dark noir has morphed
from the leggy subject matter that strikes a young man’s fancy to the more tawdry
desperation of aging men groping at life-affirming flings and last-chance love.
“If I could just hold you,” Stuart Staples yearns in his smoky husk of a voice over
circular guitar figures and on the aptly
titled “Frozen,” giving credence to the notion that love is our last grasp at
Of course, Tindersticks returned from their five-year hiatus
a different band. They had a new rhythm section of Dan McKinna (bass) and Earl
Harvin (drums), and keyboardist David Boulter had stepped into the role once
held by Staples’ departed co-conspirator, Dickon Hinchcliffe. So the first two
post-hiatus LPs lurched about some, seemingly trying to reconcile older
Tindersticks with its younger self. But by this new LP, the lineup is a
well-oiled machine, and the songs here feel tighter and more confident in turn.
The narrative fare may point toward the band’s middle age, but the music is still
defined by Tindersticks’ singular late-night slinkiness – now it just means
something a bit different than it once did.
Lush, mid-tempo numbers like the Roxy Music-sax and
strings-inflected “Slippin’ Shoes,” or “Show Me Everything,” with its additional
wah-wah guitar and warm organ splashes, stand in sympathetic contrast to lovelorn
ballads like “Come Inside” or the terrific Northern Soul of “A Night So Still.”
The best of the bunch here rival anything in the Tindersticks extensive canon:
the mysterious “Show Me Everything” — with its slow, hearty riff draped atop
cascading keys, guitar delays and hypnotic beats — finds Staples accompanied
by sexy “show me” back-up harmonies and wailing sax as the track gains in
intensity; “This Fire of Autumn” employs the same formula (with vibes replacing
the saxophone) but at a galloping pace, conveying the desperation that time
passing can evoke on those entering their own private Autumns.
But it’s the nine-minutes-plus of “Chocolate,” which opens The Something Rain, that links us to
early Tindersticks. Boulter’s spoken-word piece – a quintessentially British
tale with its “bedsits,” “custard crème biscuits” and “Silk Cuts” – works as a
sequel to the spoken-word classic “My Sister” from Tindersticks’ 1995
eponymous release. While Boulter narrates the story of a romance with a
tumescent twist at is terminus (“I never was much of a breast man,” he rationalizes),
the band works up a brilliant, brewing crescendo, fueled by the swirling horns
of long-time collaborator Terry Edwards. It’s almost a shaggy dog tale, but the
narrator’s rationalization represents a surrender of sorts to fate’s capricious
hand. That’s a sign of maturation, and one that runs through the rest of The Something Rain.
DOWNLOAD: “Chocolate,” “This Fire of Autumn,” “Show Me Everything” JOHN SCHACHT