CD Review: Tindersticks – The Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet)

Tindersticks - The Hungry Saw album coverThough they were probably my favourite British band of the mid-nineties, having released two stunning, and eponymous, albums by the time that Britpop was in full swing, Tindersticks seem to have fallen off my musical radar in the five years since their last album, Waiting For The Moon, was released. I gave that album short shrift and came to the conclusion that the band were long past their peak and were on a bit of a downward spiral since 1999’s brilliant Simple Pleasure. With the release of the new Tindersticks album, the excellent The Hungry Saw, I’ve been compelled to retreat and reappraise the band’s noughties output and while both Can Our Love… and Waiting… are, in fact, crammed full of quality tunes, they somehow don’t come together as a whole in the way that Simple Pleasure and those first two eponymous albums did.

The Hungry Saw, then, marks a return to form of sorts, though it can well be argued that the Tindersticks were never really off-form. Despite the band shedding three members to slim down to a three piece, there’s no great stylistic departure here; they’re still dealing in late night, cigarettes and wine balladry, heavy on piano, acoustic guitar and violins, with Stuart Staples’ unmistakable baritone croon at its heart. Which is a very good thing, because they do it so very well.

The album begins with the sparse, mournful piano-led instrumental “Introduction”, a curiously sombre opening that takes its time to reveal its bittersweet melody. “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” laments the passing of time with soulful guitar stabs and brassy swells while “Come Feel The Sun” and another instrumental “E-Type” hark back to the band’s early years, the former a short, sparse arrangement that would have felt at home on any of their first three albums. A third instrumental, “The Organist Entertains” acts like a theatre intermission, giving us a breather and settling us down for the album’s brilliant closing stretch. The title track sets a brisk pace, its upbeat nature at odds with its grisly imagery. “Mother Dear” slows things down again with languid organs and a distant timpani heartbeat until an uncharacteristically bellicose guitar bursts in to prompt the song’s majestic conclusion. “Boobar Come Back To Me” is another slice of classic Tindersticks that recalls the likes of “Rented Rooms” and “Travelling Light” and may well be the best thing on here. “All The Love” runs it close, though, getting maximum mileage from a simple repeated melody as it builds gradually and gracefully, while “The Turns We Took” displays the sort of shimmering soul vibe that the band brought to their sound with Simple Pleasure.

The Hungry Saw is undoubtedly the best Tindersticks album in almost a decade, the last five tracks being worth the admission alone, and for anyone looking to rekindle their dying love affair with the band, it is a must, as well as being a good starting point for the uninitiated as it is as good a representation of the band’s legacy as there is.

Tindersticks – The Flicker Of A Little Girl

Tindersticks – Boobar Come Back To Me

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