This was Tindertsicks third and final full length album for Constellation. It has some noisy elements–especially the distorted guitar–that feel different from their other releases. Although overall I find the album a bit too slow and drawn out.
The first song on this disc, “Chocolate” is quite unlike other songs by the band. It is a 9 minute slow song with a spoken word story delivered by by keyboard player David Boulter. The music sets a nice tone for this story of living in a squalid bedsit and heading into town. As the song picks up momentum, the guitar lines and the rest of the band add more atmosphere. In the story, he goes to the bar to play some pool and picks up a woman–a regular. By six minutes, the whole band, including horns is playing and the song is louder and more noisy while the story continues. For the final two and a half minutes the band drops out and the denouement reveals a secret. It’s a cool story, well delivered.
“Show Me Everything” opens with some slow bass and a buzzy electric guitar as the backing voice sings “show me…” And, after ten minutes on the disc, we finally hear Stuart Staples’ iconic voice sounding deep and whiskery as lawyers. I love the songs with the female backing vocals like this one. “This Fire of Autumn” is a faster song with a throbbing bass line and catchy chorus (with more backing vocalists). The addition of the vibes makes this a great Tindersticks song.
“A Night so Still” slows things down almost to whisper with the gentle keyboard riff under Staples’ languid delivery. “Slippin’ Shoes” is a bit more upbeat and the horns come in right at the front of the song. I love the way the bridge seems almost sinister and slick before resolving into a bright chorus. “Medicine” is another slow song with multiple layers of guitars and slow horns and strings.
“Frozen” opens with slow horns that sounds like feedback, almost. When the fast bassline and almost discoey drums come in, it’s kind of surprise, but a nice pick me up from the previous slower songs. Staples is singing quickly over himself–the echoes of his voices catching up to his new lines. And the scratchy guitars and jazzy horns make a nice moody soundtrack of him pleading “If I could just hold you, hold you.”
“Come Inside” is 7 minute song with a simple keyboard riff that floats over the slow beat. There’s a long slow jazzy outro–too long frankly. The final song is the 2 minute “Goodbye Joe.” Its all tinkling bells and a shuffling bass, a pleasant instrumental to end the disc.
While Tindertsicks albums tend to be kind of slow, this one has a few too many extended slow parts and not enough of Staples’ magical crooning or the more dramatic sounds that the band does so well. I’m not sure why their next album was not put out by Constellation, ether.
[READ: February 15, 2016] Castle Waiting 1
I have been aware of Castle Waiting for a long time. I believe I have even picked up an individual book at the comic book shop (of course I never read it because I wanted to start from the beginning).
So this book collects Chapters 1-19 (plus an epilogue).
I was instantly hooked by Medley’s outstanding drawings–so believable and realistic while exaggerated enough to make them all unique characters. Not to mention the fact that there are humans and human hybrid creatures (and no one bats an eye). And then top it off with the incredibly creative first chapter.
The story opens with a king and queen having a baby. Actually they couldn’t have a baby so they employed a local witch for assistance. The nice witch gives them good advice but when the town’s evil witch hears of this betrayal she plans to curse the baby. And thus on the girls’ fifteenth birthday, the evil witch says she will prick her finger on a needle and die. This should sound vaguely familiar to fans of fairy tales But Medley puts a twist on things immediately by removing all needles form the castle and hiring a creature named Rumpelstiltskin to do all of their work off site. Rumpelstiltskin has been cut in half and stitched together so when the creature asks for the Queen’s child in payment, the King yells at him and says he knows what kind of trouble that leads to.
The good witch is able to deflect the curse somewhat to make her sleep for 100 years (that should also sound familiar) rather than dying. So, when the girl’s fifteenth birthday arrives, the bad witch comes and brings a needle to set the plan in motion. The princess falls asleep–the whole castle falls asleep and, in a neat twist, the bad witch is killed.
And then Medley has a ton of fun with the story. When the prince comes to wake up the princess, they run off an get married. And there’s a hilarious multiple paneled spread of the rest of the castle sanding there, mouths agape. As the scene ends, we see three older women telling a man with a bird’s head that that all happened along long time ago. And the castle has been a refuge ever since.
The story shifts to another location–Bahtalo Drom. We see a pregnant woman fleeing in the night on a horse. Her name is Lady Jain and we see that she is heading for Castle Waiting (after passing taking bears and talking pigs).
The next few chapters follow her travels. She encounters some pickpockets (whom she thwarts and converts to her side). And after some more adventures she finds her way to Castle Waiting.
And most of the book is set here. We meet Reckham (the bird-headed man) as well as the three older women from earlier (Patience, Prudence and Plenty) as well as the most helpful woman Dinah Lucina–and her son Simon) there’s also Sister Peace, a sister whose story we will learn much more about later) and a strange-looking (and acting) Dr. Fell. And of course, Iron Henry the woodsman (he is very standoffish) .We soon learn that the Castle is a nice refuge except that it is plagued by vermin–poltersprites, brownies, hobgoblins and the like.
Jian plans to help out around the castle, but no one will let her do anything in her condition. So she is bored. Then Simon tells her about the library which gives her an occupation (although the library looks awesome, we don’t get to spend any real time there).
And then the baby boy is born. And, as everyone points out, he is ugly! He has a pig nose, a tail and horns and he is apparently green (although the book is in black and white). And we learn a little bit more about why Jain had to flee her home. So that when a shrouded figure approaches the gate, she is convinced it is someone who had followed her.
But that shadowy figured proves to be Chess, a human with a horse’s head. He’s something of a leader at the castle.
His arrival changes the tone of the story once again. Soon Chess and Rackham set off for the city leaving the girl’s home in the castle to get up to all manner of mischief (like the hilarious scene where they dye their hair).
The city provides the castle with all of their goods as well as a lot of action. In this case, gambling and the love of women (the story is PG or maybe PG13, don’t worry).
In the beginning of the story, we met a strange demon creature who is basically a head with tiny hooves. He helped the wicked witch do her nasty spell. Now, much later, he torments Sister Peace (but she is a match for him, fear not). The demon is a shape-shifter, and in the second chapter that he appears in, he transforms into another Sister who Sister Peace calls Nessie. But as they get close, she realizes the deception.
But that leads back to the next five chapters which are called Solicitine Pts 1-7 in which we learn all about Sister Peace’s life story. And it is just as exciting (if not more so) than the rest of the book.
Sister Peace has a secret that she hides and when it is revealed, she explains that it is this secret that has made her a nun. Although first she was in the circus. And the first part of her story is set at the circus. She befriends a lot of circus folk, although the one standoffish woman is Clytemnestra the bearded lady. Until it is revealed that she is only standoffish because her husband (the circus owner) doesn’t like her to talk to anyone. But she and Peace make quick friends. And when they learn of the underhanded ways of the circus owner they decide to flee the trap that is the circus.
They flee through the woods in search of The Abbey. The Abbey proves to be a fascinating place full of women who take no guff from anyone. In fact the head nun has lions for pets. And they set about putting a holy fright into the circus owner before welcoming in their latest charges.
Part 3 shows life at the Abbey. I can’t reveal the big secret about the Abbey but let’s just stay that it is totally wild and unexpected and changes everything you think you know about religious orders.
The Abbey story then flashes back even further where it turns out the head nun was also in the circus. Her circus experience was very different though. The owners were a very nice husband and wife and their circus has a two-headed girls and a giant (they were both very nice). Eventually the strong man, who was a gypsy, taught the head nun how to read fortunes. And a romance brews.
The final arc of this story reveals how the Abbey became self-sufficient–it involves Nessie and the love of her life and a horrible miller who has secret desires of his own.
By the time this hilariously wonderful flashback wraps up you’ve all but forgotten about Jain and the present time at Castle Waiting. And that’s okay because it all comes out in Vol 2.
I loved everything about this book and the follow up. I am only disappointed that Medley hasn’t done a million more things.