Another Tindersticks album comes out from Constellation! This one features a bit more dissonance than I’m used to hearing from them. Not crazy noisy dissonance, just sprinkles of it that make the album feel slightly askew: horns that are abrasive, strings that are foreboding and even Stuart Staples usually mellow singing is filled with vibrato (!) at times.
The opening song is an unusual track: a six and a half minute mostly instrumental which ends with some repeated chanting/singing of the title. Given that this is the Tindertsicks, a band which at this point is possibly known more for its soundtrack work than anything else, it’s not all that surprising to hear an instrumental from them, but there’s something about the structure of the song that sounds different for them–it’s a slow builder with lots of horns. It’s really cool.
“Keep You Beautiful” is a slow, quiet number. A beautiful showcase of that side of Tindersticks–harmonies and melodies aplenty. “Harmony Around My Table” is a beautiful shuffling song which sounds like classic Tindersticks. The twist is that Stuart kind of vamps around the end of the song. It’s a catchy number with lovely backing vocals and some cool lyrics ( “I found a penny, I picked it up / The other day I had some luck / That was two weeks last Tuesday / Since then there’s been a sliding feeling.” ).
“Peanuts” is a sweet duet with the elusive Mary Margaret O’Hara it has some very sweet lyrics: “You say you love peanuts / I don’t care that much / I know you love peanuts / And I love you / So I love peanuts too.”
“She Rode Me Down” is the best song on the album and one of their best songs in a long time. It features some great mariachi style rhythms (handclaps, castanets, a flute) and wonderful brass section. There’s also a nifty bass string (viola?) that adds an unexpected melody line. There’s also the fun to sing bridge: “she rode me, she rode me, she rode me.”
“Hubbards Hill” is an actual instrumental. It reminds me a bit of an acoustic Air song, all moody and tense. “Black Smoke” has some creepy violins and Staples’ slightly askew vocals–he seems to be really straining, and it ends up with a wavery vibrato. “Factory Girls” is a slow, delicate piano song. It’s similar to some of their older songs, but it seems even more quiet than usual. The final track, “Piano Music” is a great instrumental. It’s slow and melancholy with some wonderful piano sprinklings throughout.
Again it’s hard to be surprised by anything Tindersticks do, their output is so varied, but this disc has some real surprises to it. It’s not unusual for Tindersticks to create instrumentals (they do all those films scores after all, but I kind of associate the band with Staples’ voice. That there are almost three instrumentals here is unexpected. It feels like a transitional record, as if perhaps their next one will totally kick ass. But at the same time, this one is really good too.
[READ: August 1, 2011] “Above and Below”
This story was surprisingly long. It just seemed to keep going and going. And that was fine, except that the story was basically about a girl who seemed to fall hard on her luck and then find some kind of circumstance that picked her back up again. And then up and down and then up and down. Dumb luck seemed to keep her from hitting rock bottom.
So anyway, the main character (unnamed as far as I recall) was until recently a TA in Florida. When she lost her job, and her funding, she decided to say “the hell with it all.” She took the last few items she had, piled into her station wagon and took off. She called her mom and told her not to worry, that she’d call again when she got settled. Of course, her mom is kind of spacey and unresponsive and the narrator hates her stepdad, so the actually calling part may not really have been that high a priority.
First, she stays in her car until she eventually shoved off by the police. She finds a new beach and a hotel with a gym where she can shower. She basically has no intention of doing anything. She should hit rock bottom but then the first of the unreasonable coincidences occurs: “She was baking on the beach when a leaf slid up over her stomach. She caught idly at it, and found that it wasn’t a leaf at all but a five-dollar bill.” Really? A five dollar bill? We should all that happen to us. My suspicions were immediately raised by that detail, although I let it pass.
Later, she goes to a bar and a man picks her up. She goes back to his place for the night (which is totally believable). But when she wakes up in the morning she starts pigging out from his fridge. Of course he catches her and thus ends their affair. Again, really? It’s just too convenient.
She starts going to a food bank but shortly after Thanksgiving her car is broken into and everything is stolen, including seats. And, of course, they pissed in her glove box. Now she needs to find a new place to crash. So, she picks the public library. Of course, there’s a closet that they never check (having worked in a library, I find that hard to believe not to mention motion detectors, but who knows) so she sleeps there overnight for several nights in a row.
Then one night she gets to the library too late. She has nowhere to go so she wanders downtown to a club. Strangely enough, a guy who is mopping and cleaning the club talks to her for an indeterminate amount of time, thinks she’s nice, and offers her a job helping him. Really? She works as a floor cleaner for awhile until the man, named Euclid Euclean (ha) has some kind of attack, which ends her under-the-table job.
Then she finds a tent community to hang out with (you see what I mean, it just keeps going). She becomes part of a family, sort of. When that inevitably fails, she picks up with a commune. I found the stay in the commune to be the most enjoyable part. It references other incidents in the story and actually works. But then the final section of the story jumps forward by what seems like several years. And while it shows a nice sentiment, it feels like it’s from a totally different story.
Needless to say I didn’t think very highly of this piece.