Tindersticks: No Treasure But Hope review – more subdued loveliness

(City Slang)
The band’s world is a compellingly strange, crepuscular place, into which some warmth is allowed to drip

The oddest thing on Tindersticks’ 12th album is its longest track, See My Girls. Stuart Staples, a mannered singer anyway, sounds as if he has been studying Ron Moody playing Fagin in Oliver! And the lyric he delivers in that sly and insinuating voice is set in an unspecified past, in which cameras and newsstands are still everyday things. On the walls of his kiosk, the narrator has pinned the photos his girls have sent him from their travels – Paris, Rome, the Pyramids – via some very odd phrasing (“The tall buildings of the Americas / Skyscrapers as they are known.” Skyscrapers, you say? Really?). Eventually they end up at the scenes of death: Flanders, Birkenau, Cambodia, Yemen, Israel and Palestine. And then it’s back to turtles and dolphins and trees. It appears to be the blandest of all messages: well, the world’s a rum old place, eh? Musically it is so compelling – a twisting, droning, spidery piece – that it only makes the lyric seem odder.

Tindersticks: No Treasure But Hope album art work
Tindersticks: No Treasure But Hope album art work Photograph: Publicity Image

That aside, No Treasure But Hope is much as you would expect: subdued and crepuscular, everything stripped back so each musical element is distinct and has its own breathing space. The Nick Cave comparisons are still valid, but perhaps a truer one might be Lambchop, with whom Tindersticks share a certain warmth and relative straightforwardness that the Bad Seeds tend to eschew. Warm in sound, that is: Tindersticks’ world is not a happy place, and even beauty brings Staples to his knees (on For the Beauty). The use of severed limbs as a metaphor for loss on The Amputees leads one to fear that Pinky in the Daylight will be about the forcible removal of a finger, but it turns out to be a glorious love song, “pinky” referring to one of the colours revealed in the world once love illuminates it: “Bleached by my own sadness / I was slipping into the grey / But now I see / Pinky in the daylight, crimson at night.” It’s all rather lovely and it yields its loveliness slowly, like a drip. Don’t dismiss it because there’s no instant hit.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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