Music

Tindersticks: Can Our Love...

Wilson Neate

Tindersticks

Can Our Love...

Label: Beggars Banquet
US Release Date: 2001-07-03
UK Release Date: 2001-05-21
Amazon
iTunes

Back in the '80s, when asked what he thought of Morrissey and his incessant moping, the Fall's Mark E. Smith wryly suggested that the Smiths' infamous miserablist really should uh get out uh and about a bit uh more uh. You can't help thinking the same about Tindersticks. Throughout the '90s -- on four studio albums of music for imaginary, darkened bedsits and their existentialist occupants -- no one did melancholy better than Tindersticks.

Comfortably glum, bittersweet numbers like "Dying Slowly" and "No Man in the World" might suggest that it's business as usual on Can Our Love.... These two songs are textbook Tindersticks material. Combining rich depth with tremulousness and fragility, Stuart Staples' haunting, mumbled baritone takes pride of place on these moody, mournful, string-enhanced arrangements.

But while the sound of this new album certainly doesn't suggest that Staples and friends have been hanging out at the beach, it does hint that they've perhaps peered through the cracks in the heavy velvet curtains of their respective abodes and at least squinted at the sunlight and the outside world.

In many places on this new release, the band's signature strings and brass are imbued with a retro-soul flavour that gives the proceedings a more expansive and even a mildly sunny feel (well . . . in an autumnal kind of way). That's certainly the case on the throbbing, seven-minute "People Keep Comin' Around". In addition to its keyboard smatterings and its head-nodding beat -- reminiscent of the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" -- this number incorporates '70s cop-show strings, horns and flutes that thread in and out of the deep, pulsing rhythms.

Tindersticks aren't a band to rush things. They've always taken an unhurried, measured approach to their music, allowing songs to build and fill out almost imperceptibly. Nowhere is this clearer than on "Sweet Release", where the group's trademark brooding groove gradually grows to epic proportions. Recalling late-'60s Scott Walker and incorporating thick, fruity Hammond, winding violins, and a sheen of brass, the track envelops you and keeps you mesmerized for its nine minutes. Lesser artists who take their songs to such lengths often err on the side of excess and test the patience of listeners. In this case, however, Tindersticks have crafted an understated, luxuriant masterpiece that ends all too soon.

Nevertheless, the album's crowning glory is, appropriately enough, its slow-burning, dramatic closer, the seven-and-a-half-minute "Chilitetime". Here, Tindersticks bring together the melodic structure and beat (albeit slowed down) of Hot Chocolate's "Emily" and the eerie, metallic-string dissonance of Radiohead's "Pyramid Song". Staples' sublime vocals suggest an improbable hybrid of Andrew Eldritch and Ian Curtis, and this particular performance best exemplifies the uniqueness of his breathy style as he creeps up on notes, drawing out each word. Above all, this number underscores the fact that his voice is one of Tindersticks' most affecting instruments.

Although some of the brighter, more spacious, '70s-influenced arrangements on Can Our Love... offer fleeting glimpses beyond the traditionally shadowy world of Tindersticks and although Staples does sound moderately hopeful in places, for the most part, the music remains brilliantly gloomy, a soundtrack to the dark night of his soul.

It's hard to make miserable music. Or, more accurately, it's hard to make miserable music that has anything but novelty value. One reason is that many who attempt to do melancholy take the short cut and rely on lyrics to convey the mood. Tindersticks translate that emotional register to their lush, somber music and Staples renders it in his inimitable delivery. In linguistic terms it's never easy to understand what he's singing, but the feeling is crystal clear.

And although Tindersticks' sound might be richly gloomy, that's not to say that they're horribly earnest. Even in their darkest moments there's a knowingness to the performance. Like one of their obvious antecedents, Leonard Cohen, Tindersticks are not without (dark) humour. The cover art alone offers one clue to this side of them. Any man who can be photographed sharing a tender moment with an absolutely enormous donkey for the cover of an album called Can Our Love... -- as Staples is here -- clearly has a healthy sense of irony.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.