Last time a Tindersticks album came up, I said I should put all four of my Tindersticks albums on my iPod Shuffle and keep playing them until I know them backwards. Well that's more or less exactly what I did at the end of February and into early March — 3.8 hours of Tindersticks going round on a loop.
However, I'm not sure I exactly know them backwards (according to the play count on iTunes, I listened to all the songs on this album six or seven times). The thing is, this album blurred into one of the others (that I don't know very well): on an iPod Shuffle you can't see what you're listening to. And Tindersticks don't always grab your attention. Listen to a song like Dancing and the mumbling delivery sounds like it barely has the singer's attention.
The sticker on the jewel case of my copy of Curtains has those clippings from reviews that say, "The greatest record on earth. Their music lifts up my soul" (take a bow, Uncut), and "Tindersticks have never been better" (NME).
Well don't get me wrong; I like this album. Nevertheless, my review would have said "Tindersticks have always been much the same (and that's pretty good)". But then I wouldn't have been quoted on the sticker, would I?
Apart from the Ballad of Tindersticks, which is autobiographical comedy (in one scene, the band go to a club with "an exclusive door policy — exclusively for arseholes… tonight, a nod of the head, and we're in"), all the songs sound like they're sung by someone like Sterling Hayden in a film noir, a man with a hang-dog resignation to being tempted off the straight and narrow:
- "Before I knew, I was up to my neck / First time we danced" (Dancing);
- "She knows what happens when I'm without her / How this ring itches on my finger"(Desperate Man);
- "There's something there, can't leave it alone / The trains they run all night / We could leave everything behind / Just bring that dress you bought when we first met" (Bathtime).
And there are plenty more like that. All with brooding string and horn arrangements. There's a duet on this album, too (Buried Bones), which isn't as good as Travelling Light but does help add some more colour to the sound to contrast with Stuart Staples louche crooning. The sleeve notes, which I hadn't read properly before, tell me the duetter is Ann Magnuson, best to known to me as half of the occasionally brilliant Bongwater. She sings very well here.
|MusicBrainz entry for this album|