Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tinderstickmania


One of the bands RR has turned me on to is Tindersticks. There is a small band of aficionados on RR who regularly plug them, and they were rewarded when it came to the 'Crying' list, which included the wonderful 'Tiny tears'.

So I was lucky to get to see them last night at their Festival Hall concert to mark the release of their latest album, 'The Hungry Saw'. Despite the break since their last studio output, and a loss of three earlier members, the new album is straight Tindersticks. As Peel said of the Fall, 'always different, always the same...'

They are sometimes described as 'Chamber pop', and as 15 musicians trooped onto the stage, including a 7 strong string section, plus brass, I see why. They played the whole of the new album, and a string of older songs, including quite a few crowd pleasers. I don't know their whole oeuvre, and didn't get a set list, but I heard things like 'Dying slowly', 'She's gone', 'Dick's slow song'. But not 'Tiny tears' alas...

Stuart Staples' idiosyncratic singing style is not to everyone's taste. His lovely baritone is often slurred, and combined with his Nottingham accent, it's not always easy to make out the words to the songs. When you can, it's invariably slow burning bleakness, with an extra helping of miserable guilt. But, hey, it's indie innit?

The new album is an instant hit to my eardrums. Loads of standout tracks that grab you first time of hearing, including 'Boobar', the title track, and the snigle, 'The Flicker of a little girl'. I've podbeaned another track, 'Mother dear', 'cos I like the spare, chunky lead guitar part

When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to the concert, he said 'Oh, Staples lives opposite me, his kids and mine have grown up together, and he's given me tickets.' Small world. My mate tells me Staples is a bit old school about recording technology, eschewing laptops and suchlike. He bought a huge mixing desk that wouldn't fit in his Lewisham home, so he built a studio in a barn in France to accommodate it. You can see it in the video on the Tindersticks site

This week's springtime Tindersticks nomination on RR is 'Cherry Blossoms', courtesy of Darcey's Dad. Just off to dond it now...








14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tindersticks are not "indie".

TracyK said...

Well, they kind of are, in that they don't really fit in with other genres and that they were released on independent labels. Staples voice is another example of the marmite in music. There's a fine line between him and Vic Reeves Club Singer, for instance, but once you are won over by a particular track, there's no going back. It was Travelling Light for me, quite a late track, but I've been gradually compiling their stuff ever since. Got to love bands that release gatefold lps with pics and postcards and things inside.

glasshalfempty said...

Anon, I'm willing to be corrected if you can provide a convincing definition that excludes them; otherwise I'm with TracyK on this.

richardrj said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to post anonymously before and haven't got the hang of this yet. This is richardrj here, occasional poster to RR and Peter Hammill proselytiser.

I've been a Tindersticks fan since their early days and I would say that they are definitely not indie, precisely because they don't fit in with other genres. Indie is a genre with a particular sound - heavy on the guitars, slightly jangly perhaps. Tindersticks' sound is darker and more melancholy, plus of course there is the emphasis on strings and brass, both of which are anathema to indie.

As for their being released on independent labels, that's a red herring. Loads of artists of all styles release music on independent labels. By that definition, Throbbing Gristle would be indie.

glasshalfempty said...

richardrj - I'm a relative newcomer to the joys of indie, so I'm learning here. I thought they were non-mainstream bands, often a bit left field quirky. Aren't Divine Comedy & Belle & Sebastian 'indie'? I wouldn't have called either of them 'heavy on the guitars'. I didn't think it couldn't be indie if it didn't sound like My Bloody Valentine ;-)

What do other 'spill experts think? C'mon, Blimpy, if anyone can define indie, you can.

BTW, I'm not into genre definition as an academic exercise, or as a means of building fences you can sneer over, and use to exclude things you dislike. But in a blog, of all things, you need the right words to help convey to others what you are burbling on about...

Mnemonic said...

I was left a bit stunned by Richardrj's definition as well. Seems far too restrictive to me. If anything, I think we need a different definition for for all those boybands with guitars, leaving indie for precisely the sort of leftfield, non-mainstream stuff that cannot easily be pigeon-holed.

Wikipedia said...

There are a number of cultural and philosophical traits which could be more useful in pinpointing what indie music is about than specific musical styles or commercial ownership. Indie artists are concerned more with self-expression than commercial considerations (though, again, this is a stance that is affected by many artists, including hugely commercially successful ones). A do-it-yourself sensibility, which originated with punk in the 1970s, is often associated with indie, with people in the scene being involved in bands, labels, nights and zines. Indie often has an internationalist outlook, which stems from a sense of solidarity with other fans, bands and labels in other countries who share one's particular sensibilities; small indie labels will often distribute records for similar labels from abroad, and indie bands will often go on self-funded tours of other cities and countries, where those in the local indie scenes will invariably help organize gigs and often provide accommodation and other support. In addition, there is also a strong sense of camaraderie that emerges from a selflessness among indie bands and often results in collaborations and joint tours.

Indie artists of any particular time often go against the prevailing trends (for example, the twee pop movement that started in the 1980s was a reaction against the testosterone-fueled swagger of rock). A 'lo-fi' aesthetic (i.e., an often deliberate lack of polish and a more "authentic" roughness and imperfection) has often been associated with indie, particularly when slick, polished recordings were the preserve of the commercial music industry; this line has since become blurred, in a world where high-quality recordings can be made increasingly easily with inexpensive computer-based recording systems and where commercial production teams often deliberately utilize a "lo-fi" sound.
There are several subcategories which music from the overall indie scene are often grouped broadly into. Music ranging from alternative rock to punk rock to experimental music has long existed in indie scenes, often independent from one another. Indie rock and indie pop are the most common groupings that conform to an "indie" sound. The difference between these is difficult to pick up from the instrumentation or sound, as both genres include distorted guitar-based music based on pop-song conventions. If anything, the key distinction comes not from instrumentation or structure but from how strictly they follow cultural constructions of rockist "authenticity". There is also indie dance, which comes from a fusion of indie pop and electronic/dance music. Crossover between electronica (mostly glitch) resulted in so-called indietronic, electronic indie or indie electronic, for example some artists on the German Morr Music label, The Firebird Band, The Postal Service, or Fever Marlene.

Another type is post-rock, a music genre characterized by nontraditional use of instruments and high musical density. Although firmly rooted in the indie scene, post-rock's elusive and complex style bears little resemblance musically to indie rock or other styles more commonly associated with the scene. However, as post-rock music is often recorded on independent labels, it therefore often shares the same level of obscurity as much of the indie scene. Some post-rock artists include Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Animal Collective, Sigur Rós and Tortoise. The term was coined by Simon Reynolds in issue 123 of The Wire (May 1994) to describe a sort of music "using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and power chords."

Indie, an abbreviation of independent, is a term regarding a trend seen in music, film, business and subculture originating in the late 20th century.

The most general definition of the word is to be independent from the mainstream. The word has become most often associated with a subculture defined by its associated music, fashion, behavior and beliefs. Indie culture is an avant-garde lifestyle which follows social trends that are considered to consciously deviate from the mainstream. One common belief within indie culture is anti-conformity. The major influence for the indie culture came out of the indie music scene, associated with the DIY culture to the arts. Many followers of the indie culture are associated with local independent art and music scenes.

Since its emergence in the early 1980s, increasing numbers of youths have been drawn to the beliefs and trends of indie culture. Like many subcultures before it, the indie culture has become part of mainstream youth culture, in some ways earning the conformist status that it initially rejected. In the 2000s, the indie culture has had crossovers with other subcultures, including alternative, hipster, art school, hippie, emo, grungers, and mods. However, many indie followers are offended that such links are made between the indie subculture and some of those listed above, including emo because of their differing philosophies. The indie culture in recent years has adopted many traits of the hippie culture and that of the 1960s counterculture.

Bands such as Pixies and Sonic Youth, who were not given as much mainstream success up to that point, found themselves adored by new fans, assembling a strong indie following. New York City, notably Williamsburg, Brooklyn, also became a major scene for indie rock, with bands such as The Walkmen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TalkRadio, Interpol, They Might Be Giants and The Strokes. Los Angeles' indie scene rode the wave of gentrification through eastside neighborhoods like Los Feliz, Silverlake, and Echo Park, which have given rise to such bands as Moving Units, Autolux, Shiny Toy Guns, Earlimart, Silversun Pickups, We Are Scientists, and Giant Drag. The indie culture not only accepts music of the current era but also accepts classic music from the United States especially from the 1960s; however, such bands existed largely prior to the philosophy of 'indie'.

Britain's indie music scene can be traced back to the early 1960s mod era, with rock and roll bands like The Who and The Kinks made a large imprint on indie culture. Their views were seen as rebellions and spoke out for the nation. These bands greatly influenced many of the indie rock bands of the 1980s (The Smiths, Joy Division) and 1990s (post-punk and Britpop bands such as Oasis, Blur, and Ocean Colour Scene). The recent indie rock revival (roughly (2002-present) was spear-headed by bands such as The Libertines, but received mainstream appeal with bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Kate Nash, Editors, Razorlight, Atlantic and many others. Some British music publications, notably the weekly magazine NME, focus specifically on this genre and have been influential in the publicisation of now-successful indie acts.

In Canada, Montreal (Quebec) is home to a very well developed indie scene, merging influences from France, the UK, and the United States in one city. In 2004, Pitchfork Media and Spin Magazine dubbed Montreal as North America's "Next Big Scene", due to bands such as Arcade Fire, The Unicorns, Land of Talk, Islands, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Stills, The Dears, The Besnard Lakes, Kiss Me Deadly, Wolf Parade, and Stars.

Wikipedia said...

Tindersticks are a rock band from Nottingham, England. Their sound is characterised by a synthesis of orchestral backing, lounge jazz, and soul; the lush orchestrations of multi-instrumentalist Dickon Hinchliffe and the smoky baritone of lead vocalist Stuart Staples are the band's hallmarks. Tindersticks have employed electric guitars, as most rock bands have done, but augment their instrumentation with a wide array of instruments: Rhodes piano, glockenspiel, vibraphone, violin, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, bassoon, Hammond organ, and many more are prominently utilised in the music of Tindersticks. The band has a cult following in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, although the eclectic and unique sound Tindersticks possesses never made significant inroads in the mainstream.

Tinderstick's Genre: Alternative - Independent

bethnoir said...

As someone who discovered them through a 'sounds like Nick Cave' review about fifteen years ago (and my first RR was 'She's Gone' a few years ago), I've never thought of them as indie, but thanks glasshalfempty for posting and putting up that song, after the last couple of albums by them I was wondering if I wanted the new one, but I do now :-)

TracyK said...

I really disagree that indie is jangly guitars, it may be what passes for 'indie' in the charts these days, where Razorlight are deemed to be 'indie' but it's a much broader church than that. It does dip towards soul (Tindersticks), blues (White Stripes?), rock (Therapy??), electro (too many to mention), folk (The Decemberists) and stuff just too maladjusted to survive in any other genre (B&S, The Divine Comedy).
I can see why people get arsey about gits writing off jazz...

glasshalfempty said...

Thanks for all your help folks...I rest my case, m'lud

Now, where was I, oh yes, the new Tindersticks album...it's a great listen

barbryn said...

Gosh, I'm not sure I want to get into a debate on a definition of indie (maybe there's small-i indie and big-I Indie?), but did want to share Tindersticks love - one of those bands where you remember exactly where and when you first heard them (nothing glamorous here: "Patchwork" on the Evening Session, in my teenage bedroom - had to lie down on the bed with my eyes shut and just listen). I saw them live once when I was living in Greece - close enough to touch Stuart Staples' madly twitching foot (something a bit shamanic about him , on that night anyway). They were having problems with the sound during "Tiny Tears", and stopped - but had the good grace to play it again from the beginning. The last couple of albums have been a bit disappointing to me, but I'm looking forward to hearing this one properly.

DarceysDad said...

Oh I SSSOOOO wish you hadn't mentioned Vic Reeves' club singer, Tracy: that image is gonna stick [go-(t)-in-der-stick? Maybe not.] now.

Yes I put up Cherry Blossoms, and I stand by it, but I'll admit I blow really hot'n'cold over S.A.S.. In the right mood (me, not him) and in fairly small doses, he/they make some of the loveliest music you could wish to hear, even when dealing in misery.

But if I put something on when I'm only even-slightly-off being receptive, that voice has me reaching for the skip button inside 30secs. Weird, and I can't explain it any better, but hey, it's individual tastes in music we're discussing here; I don't HAVE to explain it.

And on the genre debate, in the privacy of my own head, I can call their music whatever I like. For what it's worth (zero squared!) I don't think I'd ever have used the word "indie" about them.

Blimpy said...

vic reeves has said before that he did base the club singer jive on stuart staples.