“At The Album’s heart lies the memory of people we have lost in these last two years, but we were in no mood to be maudlin. It’s to them. But it’s for us. We are still drinking, laughing, crying, fighting, fucking making our music. They wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.’
This is the ninth album from the tindersticks, the third in their newly reshuffled line up following the comebacks of ‘The Hungry Saw’ and ‘Falling Down A Mountain’. Once their sound was built upon the instantly recognisable basics; textured guitar, rhythm and vocals, sometimes augmented by strings, now it is accompanied with the keyboard, the dappling Hammond, insistent drip of glok notes, joined by guests like Terry Edwards on saxophone and Andy Nice on cello; and underpinned by a gracefully pirouetting percussion that all swirls into one; to create an almost 1970s-like cinematic backdrop. ‘The Something Rain’ crafts an evocative palette of smoky sounds of the kind that could soundtrack the gently wafting cigarette that perches from an ashtray in a blues club, the swaying leg of the man that sits at the bar, and the tales of the old man in the corner who cowers of the past when you look him in the eye. The ghost of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Andy Williams and Scott Walker drifts through these compositions that thrive with an intimacy and allow Stuart Staples’s voice the space to gently tell his ever compelling tales of losing, winning and finding oneself all over again.
Opener ‘Chocolate’ is a brave start; a monologue delivered by David Boulter tells the amusing tale of a seemingly every day evening out with a lady who holds a surprise between her legs. But through the spine of the record is the ushering in of this new sound, more confident in their own skin and more knowing than ever before. The creeping shuffle of the excellent ‘Show Me Everything’ with it’s snake line guitar line, pointed female backings, and Stuart A Staple’s entrance, his voice tremblingly tender yet other worldly, his is an almost broken baritone that paints imagery of lesions learned from someone new. ‘This Fire of Autumn’ swells from a carousel of instrumental trinkets through to Staples’s increasingly intense couplets (‘hold me as I scream’) that crave company, joined deliciously by soulful vocals of Gina Foster in the final dying embers. Slightly more uptempo meanwhile is the throbbing lounge pop twitch of ‘Slippin’ Shoes’ that sees Staples in almost lounge lizard form as he urges for laughing at the absurdity of their luck. Lounge is in evidence again on the effortlessly precious ‘Come Inside’ with it’s circular key figures and Staples’s welcoming vocals that clasps the long lost to his bosom, as the wonderful saxaphone solo drifts through the window and out into the night sky.
The two utter stand-outs are pinned together, ‘Medicine’ is almost unbearably sad, sedate yet glacially shifting through delicate Hammond notes, a clicking beat that de-constructs each instrumental line (cello, sax, guitar strum) back to it’s component and necessary part, each one burrowing in and out, grand yet not overbearing, effortless yet complex. Staples’s wounded advice drapes across the page as he implores, sage like for the medicine to work. ‘Frozen’, the first cut to be revealed from the long player is the finest moment of all Staples’s notes are now detached in the ether from the hubbub twitching percussion, guitars tremolo, interjections of saxophone squeal below, it’s almost comparable with the underbelly of backing that holds together Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’, given a gloriously dark rework. Staples’ vocals intensifying toward a swirling lament of longing, and tragic imagery ‘lovers part lovers fade lover’s throw themselves under oncoming trains.’
For a band who may have been lost forever, it’s a great pleasure and maybe a surprise that I report that ‘The Something Rain’ is one of the finest of their career. This is a surprise given that back in 2003 when the first tindersticks line up was crumbling, the group seemed like a hopeless cause, it was a sadness that this under appreciated (by some) 90s outfit, who had produced multiple albums of rare quality never quite crossed over to a mass audience. For a band who had shifted gloriously from Nottingham into listening consciousnesses of a select few, through the medium of a tender yet other worldly sound, swaying and orchestrated music that is caressed by Staple’s vocals, and mask a bruised kind of heartbreak and disintegration on albums like their self titled record. 1997’s ‘Curtains’ and high water mark for line up mark one ‘Simple Pleasures’.
‘The Something Rain’ marries their best sounds, the sighing strings and grand sweeps of their early years, joined by the stripped back jazz like elements of their latter period. Mature, yet crawling with new ideas, luxuriously throbbing yet intricate and human. Where once their sound was almost troubled and discordant, sometimes almost unbearably melancholic, these poetically vivid tales are now infused with warmth and the wisdom of experience. Balanced by the passing of time, it is the sound of music that breaths and twinges and sounds utterly effortless yet is crafted with such care. If Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was lauded to the heaven’s for it’s stripped back dexterity, if The Wild Beasts last album ‘Two Dancers’ was praised for it’s subtlety compared to their award winning debut, then tindersticks’ delicious cocktail of heart and soul ‘The Something Rain’ deserves to be given it’s moment, as it’s vastly superior to both records. In this throw-away musical culture, it’s rare that a band reach their ninth album, and sometimes it is the passing of time that really does make the difference.