Review Summary: Be gentle with your fists, if you can
You controlled her. She controlled you. One night you hit her, almost
. Hell that which was a scary night. Then she cheated on you, maybe. You cheated on her back to get even. It was a sticky situation. It was complicated. Now you drink a lot, maybe always have. Right. Let me introduce you to Stuart A. Staples and his band Tindersticks with their 1993 self-titled debut. They’ll help you out.
You can imagine Staples lying back in an old wooden chair, legs propped up on a table, cheap beer in one hand, cigar in another, lazily slanting his head in the direction of a mic, delivering for us with a trembling baritone his stories of woe. Confessionals. Pay attention, man. You may not find another guy so honest, so down to earth, so awfully human in all his deprived sinful glory, in any other place besides Tindersticks
. Yeah, he’s that
one, the guy that actually did those deeds. But he regrets it.
On twelve cut “Jism”, Staples admits over oddly placed organs that “see I can only take it out on you / there’s no one else that’s around
” and later ”if there's ever anyone else, I'll understand / and kill them
”. Wow, I feel sorry for that bi
tch. I think Staples does too. Of course, it’d be harder to sympathize with the lowly bottom-feeder of a singer if Tindersticks’ music was hard, crushing, and abrasive, or even just poorly played – but no. It’s soft and mournful, a delicate chamber pop that is essentially the cornerstone upon which The National would later build their masterpieces in more than a decade’s time to follow. Lucky ba
Like the real story that we'd like to think didn’t happen to you, or me, sometimes she wins out, and you don’t. Over the moving sets of light strings and bell dings of sixth track “City Sickness”, Staples sends the girl of interest away at an attempt at self-control, struggling every minute of it: “Sent you away, what else can I do / When I need something that much" / I'm hurting babe . . .
” And earlier on “Whiskey & Water”, he reveals that he’s truly a hopeless prisoner to his addictions, ever trying to break free:”Turn my whiskey into water / My cigarettes, I don't know what they taste like
Now Staples is hitting a little closer to home, it seems. It’s like he’s almost one of us. Almost
. Uh oh. Basically, he is you and me, except having had made all the wrong choices at all the wrong times. Human by definition, even redeemable, they would say. Fine. But that middle ground held by the singer, walking the line between just trying to get by, fighting his desires, and that of just diving head-first into sin, into his addictions, into abuse – “These teeth, they are breaking / As they close around your scruff / You look my way, your smile opens / And I wonder about what comes out.
” - makes Tindersticks
so successful in the long run, so able to sustain itself throughout its twenty-one track length.
Yes, for nearly eighty minutes will you get to know Tindersticks’ brand of smooth, silky, often string-assisted chamber pop. It’s a delicacy that fits shockingly well with Staples’ often sorrow-tinged dark lyrics and tired, weak-sounding baritone, contrasting moods, yet fitting all the same with an ironic twist: Once you get what drives Tindersticks
' core, Staples’ persona, that initial light, indie pop-sunny feel of the album turns into an eerie tension. It’s like realizing your girlfriend has just cheated on you with a close friend: You’d like to kill them, sure, but at the same time your world has just become smaller, slowly beginning to close in on you. Who can you trust now" Well, how about you try Staples. He’s knows the feeling. Hell, he's probably felt it worst. Tindersticks
is his story, without censor. You should listen.