Some bands arrive fully formed. Their debut albums are such a perfect distillation of their aesthetic they quickly suffer the curse of diminishing returns on subsequent releases. Such is Tindersticks’ fate.
The Nottingham troubadours’ 1993 first set, Tindersticks (aka Tindersticks I), so beautifully captured their late-night smokey tales of whisky soaked loves and regrets that subsequent efforts were effectively rendered redundant.
Although 1995′s confusion-inducing titled Tindersticks (aka Tinderstick II) follow-up found a wider audience and its Tiny Tears memorably accompanied one of The Sopranos‘ most pivotal scenes.
After that, it was difficult for any but the utterly devoted to feel they really needed another Tindersticks album. Six albums and nearly 20 years since their second effort have slipped by without much fuss.
Which makes album number nine, The Something Rain, a pleasant surprise. Well – it’s hardly pleasant, as such. Things in Tindersticks world seldom are.
First up, the 9-minute spoken word Chocolate (narrated by pianist David Boulter rather than singer Stuart Staples) doesn’t exactly welcome anyone other than the diehards with its tale of a painter/decorator’s successful score — first on the pool table and ultimately in the bedroom — on a pub night out.
But lines like “She even agreed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the best Bond film…if you accept it as a whole and not just get hung up about George Lazenby” show The Something Rain has a certain playfulness rather than just dour observations about life. A late night twist in the tale also surprises.
And after that, Tindersticks hit a rich seam of form.
This Fire Of Autumn has Staples and guest vocalist Gina Foster recapturing some of the magic that illuminated 1995′s Travelling Light duet with Carla Torgerson. Female co-vocalists often bring out the best in Staples’s deep and deadpan baritone slur. Slippin’ Shoes is almost jaunty. Frozen‘s insistent shuffling quick beat-laden trip with its repeated “If I could only hold you” refrain is up there among Tindersticks’ finer moments.
Tindersticks are still an acquired taste. But The Something Rain snuggles nicely alongside their first two albums as perfect late night listening material.
And if those first two Tindersticks exemplified a Sean Connery Bond-ian high mark, The Something Rain could be their OHMSS equivalent (second track Show Me Everything even cheekily embeds composer John Barry’s distinctive OHMSS strings arrangement in its midst).
Who knows? Maybe next time they may even deliver a Daniel Craig/Casino Royale-like return to absolute best form. It’d be better than a Roger Moore-style slide into old age irrelevance.
earworms: Show Me Everything, This Fire Of Autumn, Slippin’ Shoes, Frozen