Tindersticks - The Waiting Room

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2016-01-22

There’s always been something undeniably cinematic about the music of Nottingham’s Tindersticks. It’s there in the way the band move between lush orchestral arrangements and sparse, tender confessionals and it’s there in the mastery of drama and tension that has been at the centre of the band’s music since their self-titled debut album in 1993.

The Waiting Room comes complete with a short-film/arty video for each track on the album by directors including one of the bands previous collaborators, Claire Denis. It’s safe to say that with The Waiting Room the band has lost none of its flair for and appreciation of dynamics and drama.

It seems wholly appropriate then that the band should open with some music pulled from the silver screen; the instrumental theme to 1962 Marlon Brando flick Mutiny on the Bounty, the disarmingly beautiful ‘Follow Me’. With the title sequence over, the film begins in earnest. 

We get the musically stark yet hopeful strains of ‘Second Chance Man’ sitting alongside the gradually accelerating jazz-groove of the gorgeous ‘Were we Once Lovers?’  The latter song reaching its emotional peak as Staples croons, “I cannot care if it’s the caring that’s killing me”.  It’s the sound of late nights and heartbreak and we’re on familiar yet no-less engaging Tindersticks territory.  

It’s when the band stretches their sound into new areas that the album really flourishes. The confident, instantaneous strut of ‘Help Yourself’ effortlessly matches bold brass arrangements to a soulful, almost afro-beat rhythm and one of Staples most passionate deliveries, “help yourself/take what you can/make yourself a man”. It’s a vibrant call-to-arms and a song I’ve found myself returning to again and again.

Another hair-raising moment comes with the arrival of ‘We Are Dreamers’. The song seeps in slowly; a tense, cryptic, dream-like mantra that finds the band enveloped in mystery as Staples croons alongside Savage’s Jehnny Beth.  A Lynchian dream sequence populated by spectral drones and an undercurrent of magic and menace.

There’s plenty to love about The Waiting Room and while much of the albums content is unlikely to win over the doubters, the LP undeniably finds Staples and Co at their most inspired. It’s an album rich in atmosphere, from the weeping strings and monologue that make up ‘How he Entered’ to the wheeze of the organ and solitary glockenspiel on ‘Hey Lucinda’.  The latter track being a particularly poignant duet with the now departed Lhasa de Sela.

Perhaps the albums most beautiful moment however comes with the closing ‘Like Only Lovers Can’, an example of Staples and co keeping it simple and pulling out an achingly tender ballad in the process. After 23 years Tindersticks still know how to soundtrack those moments when you’re drunk, tired and emotional in the early hours.

Tindersticks albums tend to be ‘growers’, albums of subtle charm that you really need to spend some decent time with to fully appreciate and The Waiting Room is no exception. An album of strange, beautiful tapestries that demand closer inspection. Spend some time with the albums spacious, subtle grooves and you’re bound to fall under its cinematic spell.  

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