Tindersticks – Distractions – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Tindersticks’ latest album quickly follows up their last, just over a year later. No Treasure But Hope was an album focusing on the exquisite loveliness side of Tindersticks, but this one is very different. If their last was akin to Waiting for the Moon, a sort of summary of the previous few albums, this one is like skipping forward to Falling Down A Mountain. It’s as if they got their more conventional material out of the way and have cleared the palette. This time out we get only seven songs, two of which top nine minutes, plus three covers.
The eleven-minute opener Man Alone is the longest track and possibly the most polarising thing Tindersticks have ever done. It starts with a pulsing beat and looped vocals over a rumbling bass, with Stuart Staples repeating phrases like “can’t stop the fading”, “I’m not greeted by the sky no more”, “falling into the sea, falling into this life”, punctuated by the sounds of rainfall, vibraphone and the soft clanging of bells. An exercise in building tension, you could almost imagine it on a dancefloor, in all the darkest clubs. It’s strange as be damned yet somehow addictive.
A total change in atmosphere for the following track, the glacially paced I Imagine You. It starts off with Staples whispering lyrics before he alternates crooning with spoken word over a slowly swelling organ. Neil Young’s A Man Needs A Maid in the hands of Tindersticks is exactly as you’d imagine it, turning the old folk song into a smoky nightclub ballad with backing vocals from Gina Foster. If anything it’s moodier than the original! The band dial-up their soul side on their cover of Dory Previn’s Lady With The Braid, adding a string section. On the other hand, in their hands the Television Personalities’ You’ll Have To Scream Louder turns into a groovy soul track with vaguely sinister overtones.
The French-sung piano interlude Tue-moi provides a change in pace, it’s downcast and brief which clears the air for the final track, the nearly ten minute The Bough Bends. This one opens with bird song and more moodiness, Staples mumbling and singing over organ, building gradually towards some growling guitar. It’s quite avant-garde and unconventional, yet is one of the strongest things Tindersticks have ever done. It has a timeless feel to it and is genuinely affecting.
While it’s unlikely to be any fan’s favourite Tindersticks album, it’s one of their most exciting in years. It’s not a complete gear change then, but it’s less reliant on their so-called formula. The album is less cohesive than usual, and pleasingly so.
1. Man alone (can’t stop the fadin’)
2. I imagine you
3. A man needs a maid
4. Lady with the braid
5. You’ll have to scream louder
7. The bough bends
Man Alone (Can’t Stop The Fadin’)