Sweet salvation

Jul 18, 2001 at 12:00 am

Five albums in — not to mention a couple live outings, a rarities compilation and a sound track — and Tindersticks still sound as beautiful and haunting as ever.

As much as any indie band in existence, Tindersticks have perfected their own signature sound: darker, almost cinematic ballads featuring the tremulous baritone of vocalist Stuart Staples over delicate music replete with strings, piano, horns and organ. Songs which by all estimations should descend into cliché and formula, instead explore every nook and cranny of the sonic territory with a brilliant eye to remaining honest and real.

1999’s Simple Pleasure found the closest thing to an evolution for Tindersticks: the introduction of R&B into the fold; you can pick out the Al Green and Marvin Gaye nestled among Lee Hazlewood and Scott Walker. Can Our Love … picks up on the trend, but as one would expect, it’s more evolution than radical departure. Why fix something that’s not broken?

Album opener “Dying Slowly” features some classic Stuart Staples lyrics: “I’ve seen it all and it’s all dumb/I’ve been with everyone and no one/I’m just dying slowly/It seemed better than shooting myself.” It’s the sort of pathos mixed with irony that resonates so well, which is a very hard balance.

Meanwhile, tracks such as “People Keep Comin’ Around,” “Don’t Ever Get Tired” and “Chilitetime” highlight Tindersticks’ positively tight rhythm section and, perhaps, the band’s real strength: that they are a true six-piece. With each member comfortable in his individual role, songs are propelled by dynamics that are surprisingly subtle and smooth.

The real payoff is the album’s title track, which sounds exactly like the missing ballad from Motown-Tamla circa 1971. A pretty ballsy move, but one that’s pulled off with the usual Tindersticks panache. Rather than mere nostalgia, on this one beautiful song they are able to express a care and sincerity, which is infectious.

Like all Tindersticks albums, Can Our Love … is the sound of Sunday mornings filled with regret and longing. Few bands could’ve done it better, and few make it look so damn easy.

Aaron Warshaw is the MT listings editor. E-mail him at [email protected].