Tindersticks Working For The Man: The Island Years

[Island; 2004]

Styles: chamber pop, melancholic rock
Others: Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Gallon Drunk

It has to be said that describing music as being like the soundtrack to a yet unmade film is one of the biggest clichés going. However, the music of Tindersticks is genuinely filmic and sparks my imagination like almost no other. The fact that the group have indeed recorded the soundtrack to a film, Nenette et Boni, only serves to reinforce my view that this band are preternaturally gifted to convey sonically the unwritten scripts that are played out in their collective imagination.

Tindersticks have been around for over ten years, one of those very rare bands who sound like no-one else around and carry on plowing their own furrow oblivious to fashions changing around them; hand-made suits and violins are the order of the day, whether the outside world is into leather-clad garage rock or sleek techno is wholly irrelevant, giving the band a level of integrity rarely found elsewhere. This two disc retrospective is a very good introduction to their work, although in fairness to appreciate them properly I feel it is better to hear the songs in the context of the original albums, as the band have subtly evolved over time and this progression happens rather too quickly over the course of the first CD. Tindersticks should be regarded as a slowly maturing fine wine rather than a hastily downed bottle of Blue Nun.

The first disc focuses on Tindersticks' singles output and is a fine selection, although the first half of the album is noticeably stronger than the second, with the exception of "I Know That Loving," the majestic penultimate track with its fantastic glissando violins, punchy horns, and gospel backing vocals. "City Sickness," "Marbles," and "Her" make for an exquisite start to the first half of the package, rolling Hammonds and sweeping strings creating a stunning musical backdrop to Stuart Staples' unmistakeable gravely hangdog vocals. The musicianship is amazing, the arrangements complex as rhythms shift and melodies weave in and out. On the downside, the track selection is far from perfect; where is "No More Affairs" I ask you?

The second disc is a collection of b-sides and rarities and is at least as good as the first. Inventive instrumentals pepper the more experimental output of the band, with a couple of sublime cover versions, namely Pavement's "Here" and Townes van Zandt's "Kathleen," making this even more of an essential purchase.

Overall, this is a great introduction to a band who have made it their mission to soundtrack our melancholy lives, although they always give the impression of a light at the end of the tunnel. This is music to immerse yourself in, so buying the original albums is really the best way to experience it. However, this is a good introduction and is likely to bring the band a new wave of followers. Sit back, turn up the stereo, and let your imagination take over. You might find yourself watching one of the best films you've never seen.

Disc One
1. City Sickness
2. Marbles
3. Patchwork
4. Her (original version)
5. Travelling Light
6. Tiny Tears
7. Bathtime
8. Another Night In
9. Can We Start Again?
10. I Know That Loving
11. For Those... (orchestral version)
Disc Two

1. Patchwork
2. Milky Teeth
3. Joe Stumble
4. For Those...
5. Benn
6. Fruitless
7. Untitled
8. The Bullring
9. Kathleen
10. Summat Moon
11. A Sweet Sweet Man
12. E-Type Joe
13. Plus de Liaisons
14. Waiting Round You
15. I've Been Loving You Too Long
16. Here
17. Harry's Dilemma