Slightly later than normal, and a bit of a cop-out, this is the original text of my review of this wonderful album which appeared in a slightly edited form (and with its score dropped by 1) in the latest issue of Clash. As it hasn’t appeared on their site today, I thought I’d post it up here as I did spent much of last week listening to this particular record. It truly is a great record and, as I suggest in the piece, one of their very finest releases. Anyway, over to me.
As the slightly discordant trumpet weaves sleazily across the opening bars of the title track, it could be 1995 all over again. The arrestingly claustrophobic world of the band’s early albums was, for many, a potent protective layer against the slightly shit world outside. The rejigged line up that emerged in 2008 offered up ‘The Hungry Saw’, an excellent record but one which represented a slightly tentative regeneration. ‘Falling Down A Mountain’ marks the return of a bolder spirit and, as a result, there is another truly great Tindersticks album to add to your collection.
While ‘Harmony Around My Table’ is the closest relation to that last record, ‘Keep You Beautiful’ mines the languid, soulful side of the ‘Sticks’ output and with ‘Peanuts’ their reputation for perfectly executed and utterly beguiling duets is once again kept intact.
“She rode me like a train, like a hurtling, steaming train” sings frontman Stuart Staples during the gallopingly randy ‘She Rode Me Down’, one of the album’s numerous highlights. Two instrumentals in only ten tracks is pushing it a bit, but album closer, ‘Piano Music’, is the better of the two, resolutely disobeying its title and demonstrating how strings in rock music are meant to work.
Not that Tindersticks have ever needed any help in evoking those difficult feelings. Few bands can convey aching sadness with such beauty and ‘Factory Girls’ is not only the album’s finest example of this but also one of the best songs that they have ever released. Plaintive piano underlines the sorrow at the heart of the message, “it’s the wine that makes me sad, not the love I never had.” It is an alarmingly raw song and if it doesn’t stir something inside you then you have a cold, cold heart.