Review: Tindersticks – The Something Rain
Published on February 29th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The buzz… Ninth studio album from Stuart Staples – Nottingham’s finest baritone – and co, not including their soundtracking work for French film director Claire Denis. In the band’s own words…
“At the album’s heart lies the memory of the 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.”
Sounds like… A lascivious, nocturnal, bewitching and strangely luxurious mini-masterpiece. The Something Rain represents Rocksucker’s (well overdue) first proper engagement with Tindersticks, and on this evidence we shall certainly be investigating further, in fact already have.
Nine-minute opener “Chocolate”, conversationally narrated by the band’s organ and accordion player David Boulter, comes across like a melting pot of “The Gift” by The Velvet Underground, Jarvis Cocker in spoken word mode (think “David’s Last Summer” or “Wickerman”) and the the kind of nostalgic French cinema spoofed so delightfully in this Big Train sketch; the influence of Madame Denis, perhaps?
It certainly doesn’t feel nine minutes-long, so captivating are its invocations of urban squalor and entertainingly arbitrary details (“She even agreed that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the best Bond film, if you accept it as a whole and not just get hung up about George Lazenby”), and there’s even a ‘shocking’ twist at the end that we daren’t spoil for you. All we’ll say is that it’s not as violent as “The Gift”.
Staples’s strained, quivering croon then grasps hold of the baton, and how strangely addictive it is too. “Show Me Everything” shows a doleful side with its references to “complexities”, “treacheries” and “everything we could have had”, but this is overridden by the smoky, slyly creeping suggestiveness of the staccato string arrangement, pangs of sensuality which are reflected in Gina Foster’s soulful backing vocal contributions both here and across the album. So far, so glorious.
“This Fire of Autumn” is relatively sprightly of gait but marked with a mournfulness by minor key infusions of glockenspiel and oboe (if that’s what they are), and a titular refrain that will follow you around all day/week/month, while “A Night So Still” is full of autumnal, full-bodied reds, greens and browns for the synaesthetically inclined.
“Slippin’ Shoes” stakes a strong claim for stand-out status with a sassy, ‘cha-cha-cha’ combination of electric piano and brass section, Staples intoning “We could put our shoes back on/Trample down the flowers that grew on the ones we love” over a major key chorus progression that manages to at once provide welcome relief and further the ‘smoky jazz club at 3am’ vibe that’s been struck so delectably up.
There’s little deviation or breaking of character from thereon in, and nor should there be. What matters is that there is no let-up in quality; “Medicine” flaunts a popping ‘n’ clicking drum machine under the dolour, “Frozen” provides the album’s most startling aural experience with its soft, reverbed cacophony (if such can exist), quick, jittery rhythm, disturbed incantation of “if I could just hold you” and saxophone wails low enough in the mix so as to enhance the overall texture rather than dominate, while “Come Inside” is the most overtly luxurious number, all warmly glowing major seventh chords, beguilingly fluttery strings and plinky Pet Sounds guitar.
Furthermore, if the phrase “sax solo” fills you with dread – and let’s face it, it all too often should – then “Come Inside” could work wonders towards alleviating your prejudice; all of which is a convoluted way of saying: nice sax solo.
Instrumental curtain (arf!)-closer “Goodbye Joe” brings the glockenspiel back twinklier than before, played as it is in a higher octave, while nice, woody drum machine combines with gently clattering organic percussion, to underpin strange, heavily reverbed sounds that eventually develop into an oddly jaunty (given its surroundings) violin. A beautiful chapter of music is brought to a satisfying conclusion, a new fascination opened up in Rocksucker’s fancy.
In a few words… Gorgeous, haunting, deliciously textured and totally inspired. A triumph.