TINDERSTICKS Tindersticks (This Way Up)

Another impulse buy, this, having read reviews comparing Tindersticks to Gallon Drunk, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, The Fall and about 153 other bands I hold close to my heart. This double epic is their debut album, and is certainly well above "what's all the fuss about" standard, without perhaps being as good as many claim it is.

They play an original and entertaining sepia-tinted meltdown of country and (very broadly) indie music that's spent too many evenings in dingy, smoky clubs, and despite Stewart Staples' too-husky-to-decipher-most-of-the-time vocals it succeeds, with atmosphere by the bucketload. The Cave-y lyrics help as well, with an eerie fixation with blood (on, erm, "Blood", and "Tie-Dye") fairly prominently displayed. They're at their considerable best with songs such as the lament for the pace of modern life "City Sickness", the narrated "Marbles" and the closing string-driven "The Not Knowing", where the perceptive lyrics are allowed to run around with a minimum of impediment. A record that will, I suspect, only grow in stature with time.

TINDERSTICKS Tindersticks (This Way Up)

The sweet misery of it all: this, the second eponymous double album from England’s finest (only?) exponents of ‘sadcore’ manages to magnify the brooding intensity and heartfelt misery of its predecessor whilst simultaneously ditching the rockier trappings that made it an uncomfortable listen in ways that perhaps weren’t intended. Stuart Staples’ melancholic growl, still surrounded by the clinging aura of Ian Curtis at his bleakest, seems to have slid downwards an octave or two, giving his words the opportunity to massage the floorboards en route to your brain, where the full muted vitriol of his lyrics can be appreciated.

"Tindersticks" is an uncompromising record: the only let up from its low-key doomcasting comes on the third track, "My Sister", a narration in which the eponymous anti-heroine is blinded at the age of five, burns down the house and is orphaned at ten, moves in with her gym teacher at fifteen, who paralyses her at twenty, and dies at thirty-two. "She said she only wanted a cheap coffin/So that the worms could get to her quicker". In the background the band noodle about like Stereolab at a vibraphone expo...and this is what passes for light relief in the happy-go-lucky, laugh-a-minute world of the Tindersticks.

Elsewhere the music swells and subsides with a subdued, sepia grandeur, almost as if the band had been contracted to produce a dozen different impressions of the same tune. Ultimately it doesn’t matter that you can’t really distinguish "Tiny Tears" from "Mistakes", say, since often the sustaining of mood is more important than the meaning, the cosseting only broken by the rattling "Snowy In F# Minor", a dead ringer for the debut’s "Milky Teeth" and the frankly horrible instrumental "Vertrauen II". More than adequate compensation arrives in the form of the lush yet desolate "A Night In", "She’s Gone", where the singer’s lover and her daughter (or lover and her mother?) leave town, and the aching road-movie denial of "Travelling Light", a duet with The Walkabouts’ Carla Torgerson (He: "I travel light"/ She: "You don’t travel light"). There’s definitely something cinematic at stake here, right down to the anti-cut of the band’s suits - kind of "A Taste Of Honey" meets "thirtysomething" with urnloads of cold tea thrown in. With their jeweller’s eye for observation of human frailties, the band’s still subtle takes on the larger issues e.g. AIDS, on "No More Affairs", can look like sledgehammers in search of nuts, but paradoxically, by ploughing an increasingly narrower furrow they seem to be unearthing even greater abilities within themselves. A fine album, and at this rate they’ll make even better.

TINDERSTICKS The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95 (This Way Up)

Another limited edition, and another one of those double 10" farragoes that miserable gets (c.f. Red House Painters, The The) seem so fond of, "The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95" documents a Tindersticks live experience, complete with a twenty-five-piece string section, recorded around the time of the release of their second eponymous double album. Rather predictably, it’s excellent.

You know you’re in for something of an experience from the lead-in groove on the first side: the audience noise fades in, there’s the sound of the band members assembling and percussion being road-tested and then straight into the creepy "El Diablo En El Ojo", with Stuart Staples almost crooning "I wouldn’t turn the sound down yet/Don’t even touch the dials..." as discordant strings and cheesy organ chords slash at the backcloth, building to the first of many breathtaking hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up climaxes. Other highlights are a more-laconic-than-ever reading of "My Sister", where the band taxi up to the runway during Staples’ recitation before going supersonic. "City Sickness" is as predictably brilliant as ever, "No More Affairs" a chilling study of deceit and new song "For Those..." almost humorous. (Not being a band noted for their levity, the NME used to run a feature called "Hey Hey We’re The Tindersticks"). The only moan I have is the non-inclusion of two of their finest moments in the form of "The Not Knowing" and "Travelling Light", but in the presence of the excellence offered here I’m generously prepared to let it lie.

TINDERSTICKS Musique Originale Du Film Nènette Et Boni (This Way Up/Island)

Very chic: probably forever doomed to be an arthouse classic, Claire Denis’ film "Nènette et Boni" would appear to feature, if the cover photographs are to be believed, a white rabbit, fluffy pink slippers, a P J Harvey lookalike in the same ‘recently drowned’ pose that the real one used on the front of her "To Bring You My Love" album, someone with a dough fixation and an all-night pizza dispensary. And, of course, the wonderful music of them laugh-a-minute Tindersticks lads, which, if you ignore the cynical notion that they’re just flogging yet another reincarnation of their eponymous second album (c.f. last year’s "The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95" live album, which also had a familiar track list) is hopefully destined to become a 90s loungecore easy listening classic. Based substantially around the backing music to their epic narrative "My Sister", as well as including a new reading of "Tiny Tears", it sounds like prime Eno played on real instruments, deceptively shuffly and atmospheric, nestling in the slightest hint of 3A.M. jazz club ambience. The Tindersticks’ trademark English take on sadcore paranoia is heightened, rather than diminished, by the mainly instrumental settings, and although nobody attempts to execute any extravagant solos the delicate percussion, piano and vibraphone work stand out. A marvellous album, probably forever doomed to be a lost classic.

TINDERSTICKS Curtains (This Way Up)

The mighty Tindersticks return with their third proper album, but for some reason the gods of glumness don’t seem to have really made it this time. Sure, the signs are all there - Stuart Staple’s groaning-as-singing approach to vocalising, stately, waltz-like melodies that slowly unwind as the tension increases, sepia string arrangements, the narrative ("Ballad Of Tindersticks" - Staples mopes around Los Angeles on tour whilst dreaming of pushing his infant daughter around London supermarkets) - yet half a dozen listens in "Curtains" hasn’t fully evolved into the same kind of shimmering, life-enhancing experience as its predecessors. Perhaps their previously untouchable formulae has curdled into some kind of elaborate parody, as if the aim of the album is to test how many times they can recycle the same tune, or how far Staples can lurch towards total unintelligibility. I don’t doubt for a second that one day I’ll love "Curtains" as much as their second eponymous release, but at close of press it looks like that day is yet to arrive.

TINDERSTICKS Donkeys 92-97 (This Way Up/Island)

A compilation already? It hardly seems five minutes since Nottingham’s finest emerged fully-formed with their stunning eponymous debut double album, but having tried pretty much every other method of keeping the torrent of Tindersticks product flowing (a film soundtrack, two live albums, ridiculous quantities of limited singles scattered across a host of hip indie labels) this too-brief 13 track career retrospective is now upon us. (In Tindersticks tradition, the vinyl version packs an extra track in the form of the rare-as-hen’s-teeth 1993 A-side "Feeling Relatively Good", for which much respect is due, of course.)

Naturally, this self-deprecatingly titled album, clothed in a cool 60s pastiche sleeve (based, I reckon, on Quincy Jones’ "Anatomy Of A Murder") is far from the usual fleece-the-fans package of easy-to-obtain singles. Despite owning all the Tindersticks’ official studio album output at least half of the tracks on "Donkeys 92-97" are new to me, be they new versions, B-sides, cover versions or dusty original single takes. Herein are fumbly early takes on songs that made it onto their first album in cosmeticised form - "Patchwork", "Marbles" and "Here", the first named betraying a hitherto undetected heavy Velvet Underground debt, right down to the mimicking of Nico’s tambourine technique - as well as single versions of certified ‘Sticks classics such as "City Sickness" and the wonderful duet with Carla Torgensen of The Walkabouts that is "Travelling Light".

What else? How about a desolately lovely reading of Pavement’s most achingly normal moment, "Here"? Or a similarly dignified interpretation of Otis Redding’s "I’ve Been Loving You Too Long", originally a B-side? Then there’s the French version of "No More Affairs", originally issued as a free single with vinyl pressings of their second (and, so far, finest) album, Stuart Staples duetting with Isabella Rossellini (well, I don’t suppose Staples would make a particularly brilliant actor, either...) on a newly recorded version of their old showbiz romance "A Marriage Made In Heaven", and a new orchestral take on "For Those...", once unbelievably buried away on the B-side of the "Marbles" single.

Unpromising on paper, maybe, "Donkeys" speaks volumes to all who care to listen: if you know nothing about Tindersticks terrifically English, stiff-upper-lipped take on sadcore, which owes far more to Nick Drake and Joy Division than American Music Club and Neil Young, it will hopefully convert you to the cause of one of the most cruelly ignored British bands of the 90s. If you’re an enthusiast already there’s enough new and alternative material here to make purchase a mandatory requirement. So hop to it.

TINDERSTICKS Simple Pleasure (Simply Vinyl)

"Simple Pleasure" is the Tindersticks' first album since 1997's "Curtains", and it's a lot leaner and trimmer than anything they've proffered in the past, being a positively anaemic nine tracks short. Shorn of any of Stuart Staples' mumbled narratives, it's possibly their most song-orientated work, even when one of those songs is a rather pointless instrumental ("From The Inside") and another an admittedly charming cover of 80s soul trio Odyssey's "If You're Looking For A Way Out".

Unfortunately, "Simple Pleasure" fails to arrest the decline in songwriting quality that began with the underinspired "Curtains". It may start with one of their jauntiest, most upbeat four minutes yet in the form of the single "Can We Start Again", and songs such as "If She's Torn" might be brimful of low-key tenderness, but overall this album is a hard slog to listen to that belies its lack of length. They might be doing the same idiosyncratic, inimitable thing they've always done - the tea-drinker's equivalent of the American sadcore scene - but, as with recent releases from Stereolab and Pavement, simply being different isn't enough to guarantee musical success. The Tindersticks sound has barely evolved from the first note of their debut album, its just become increasingly worn and rut-bound. Not that "Simple Pleasure" is a bad album, just a disappointment from a band that seem to have squandered an almost limitless potential for illuminating the darker corners of the human psyche.

On a brighter note "Simple Pleasure" is the first album ever to be released on the black stuff by Simply Vinyl simultaneously with its major-label CD appearance, and benefits from the full roster of SV bullet points, including a near-silent 180g virgin vinyl pressing, a heavy quality sleeve with PVC outer and an insert with pictures and recording info.

TINDERSTICKS Can Our Love… (Beggars Banquet)

Having not been the first band to be dumped by The Man when their sensitive music failed to provide their major label masters with the required paydirt, the fifth Tindersticks studio album finds the band back in indie territory. Naturally this has resulted in a less than seismic shift in their sound, which still revolves around slow-moving string and brass patterns and Stuart Staples' mumbling vocal delivery. It's a template that started to look a little frayed and ragged around the time of 1997's "Curtains", and there's nothing here to arrest the steady, gentle decline in the quality of the bands output. It's not a bad album, with far too much care and craftsmanship on display to enable it to be easily dismissed as such, but apart from the brooding paranoia of "People Keep Coming Around" and the title track's dewy-eyed relationship fatalism there's nothing to really snag the wandering ear. All of which is a shame from a band who have produced some of the most inventive and individual music of the last decade.

TINDERSTICKS Trouble Every Day Original Soundtrack (Beggars Banquet)

What is it about the Tindersticks and cinema? One of the few pleasures afforded by watching Patrice Chéreau's too-dreary-for-me, even, "Intimacy" recently was the presence, over the opening credits, of the band's velvety, luxurious "A Night In". And, with their proper song albums seemingly offering diminishing returns with each instalment, it takes this quietly released anthology of their music to Claire Denis' new cannibal film to remind how great the Tindersticks can be when they really try.

There is one new proper song on this album, called "Trouble Every Day", and it's brilliant, soaked through with the kind of broiling, turbulent mystery that made their second, eponymous album a minor classic of modern music and the lack of which has rendered everything they've recorded since such a disappointment. It's fortunate indeed that "Trouble Every Day" is so good, because its component parts have to withstand being isolated and picked off one at a time to generate the remainder of the album - a string line here, a rattling acoustic bass riff there, the lyrics and melody resurfacing during the opening and closing title sequences. The result, mixed in with the odd audio verite effect such as lapping waves or church bells, is a pleasantly relaxing long player, somewhat at odds with the artistically blood spattered photographs on the sleeve and throughout the sumptuous coffee-table booklet that accompanies the vinyl version. It may not top their previous Claire Denis commission, "Nenette Et Boni", which, running quiet riot with the contents of much of that magical second album, benefitted from having a broader swathe of source material on which to draw. Still, "Trouble Every Day Original Soundtrack" is their most enjoyable new material in years, a soupcon of hope for those who feared that the quality of their music might have slipped into irreversible decline.

TINDERSTICKS Waiting For The Moon (Beggars Banquet)

waitingforthemoon.jpg (35065 bytes)Sad to say, but the time has long passed when news of a new Tindersticks album generated even the faintest ripples of excitement in my area. Peaking gloriously with their eponymous second in 1995, subsequent works seem to have mined all-too-familiar territory to rapidly diminishing returns. Will "Waiting For The Moon" reverse this unfortunate trend?

Uh, no, it won't, although it will deliver a succession of minor shocks in the process. The first is the way that the voice singing opener "Until The Morning Comes" - a murderous tale of crimes of passion of the kind more normally found in the Nick Cave songbook than in the works of these mild-mannered, tea-drinking sadcore merchants - is patently not that of Stuart Staples. The guarded sleevenotes give nothing away, but given that the lyrics are provided by DickonHinchcliffe, as are those of the similarly mysteriously vocalised "Sweet Memory", it's probably reasonably safe to assume that it's him doing the singing. "Say Goodbye To The City" is the first of many songs to suggest a(n even) more overt Velvets influence than Tindersticks have previously demonstrated. The aforementioned "Sweet Memory" follows, musically so similar to the band's "Tiny Tears" it's almost a parody. "4.48 Psychosis", text taken from Sarah Kane's titular play, with its spoken word narrative and droning guitar backgrounds, strongly reinforces the impression that we're retreading territory claimed by The Velvet Underground, "The Murder Mystery" being its obvious antecedent.

Side two offers the girl/boy duet "Sometimes It Hurts", a conceit that can trace its lineage back to the rather more illustrious likes of "Travelling Light". "My Oblivion", strangely reminiscent of Lambchop's too-subtle-for-its-own-good "Is A Woman" album, admittedly possesses a certain dusty charm, although they've been this way many, many times before. And "Just A Dog" is rather too akin to the "Steptoe And Son" theme music to take completely seriously.

So, another Tindersticks album then. And the further they journey from that staggering second album, the harder it gets to believe, or even hope, that they'll ever match it in scale, range and invention again. You'll have to like Tindersticks an awful lot to really, truly like this.

TINDERSTICKS / SARA LOWES The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester 4 October 2008

After years of poverty-stricken Bridgewater Hall support acts where you’d get a lady with an acoustic guitar and maybe – if you’re lucky! – a bassist, when eight musicians trooped across the stage I was half-thinking that the Tindesticks were on early. But no! Sara Lowes’ music is nothing if not lavishly ambitious, finding employment for a guitarist, bassist, drummer, two keyboard players and a two-man brass section. And it sounds like…well, it was all over the shop, whilst at the same time never being anything other than the product of someone with a strong, singular vision. Variously I was put in mind of Carole King fronting a Supertramp that had just been administered a massive, walloping injection of groove; a countrified Beth Orton; an acid-jazz Dave Brubeck; Kate Bush in piano ballad mode; Belle And Sebastian; the 0˚ Of Separation collective… But, I wonder whether the attraction was the elaborate arrangements and enthusiastic musicianship rather than the songs themselves. They probably wouldn’t have had the same arresting interest stripped of all their tinsel and tempo changes and rearranged for an acoustic guitar and maybe – if you’re lucky !– a bassist. Still, especially considering the economics of keeping an eight-piece band together in these credit-crunched times, respect for what Lowes and her compatriots have achieved is most definitely due.

Stuart Staples’ 11-piece chamber-pop ensemble assembled themselves piecemeal during the opening “Introduction”, forming an arc around the rear of the stage that left him with ample room for occasional outbreaks of jerky, nervous dancing. Staples himself appeared the anti-Bryan Ferry, with his dusty demeanour, crumpled suit, lugubrious baritone and greying hair. After a few songs it seemed as though they’d locked into an unannounced complete rendition of latest album “The Hungry Saw”, which, with its subtle Motown infusions, might well be the most energetic, memorable Tindersticks album in over a decade. I wondered, though, whether it was perhaps still a bit dewy fresh to truly warrant such reverential treatment. Admittedly, in the Bridgewater’s fabulous acoustics, it sounded magnificent, even down to the distinctly audible triangle part in “The Flicker Of A Little Girl”, but instrumentals as “E-Type” and “The Organist Entertains” seemed like a little trivial for the concert stage given how much catalogue the band had to cover, impeccably performed though they were.

Suddenly, though, the mounting sensation of comfortable complacency was shattered by a bloodthirsty cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls”, the band suddenly switching from note-perfect politeness into something unhinged and overdriven. Then, to the biggest cheers of the evening thus far, came “She’s Gone” and “Travelling Light”, from their masterpiece second eponymous album. In recorded form Carla Torgerson of the Walkabouts duetted with Staples on the latter; tonight he sang her lines in the first person, maybe rendering the song’s dialogue of self-deception even more powerful.

The band plunged back into “The Hungry Saw” with renewed vigour, but it was the encore that sealed the evening. A cover of Odyssey’s “If Looking For A Way Out” was underrehearsed but endearing (and can you think of another band that would, or even could, cover Townes Van Zandt and Odyssey in the same evening?), “Her” reeled like a flamenco kaleidoscope, and ”The Not Knowing” was marvellous, woozy with the wheeze of massed melodicas.

I’ve waited a long time to see the Tindersticks: it’s been fifteen years since I picked up their overstuffed but impressive debut album. They didn’t disappoint: I would’ve taken a broader, deeper sweep through their catalogue over a complete rendition of their latest long player, but it seems churlish to grumble too loudly in the face of such a convincing performance.

TINDERSTICKS The Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet) 

Mysteriously omitted from the end-of-year critical beanery, in 2008 the reconvened Tindersticks overcame years of rut-bound diminishing returns, turning in what might be their best work since their magnificent eponymous second album. “The Hungry Saw” is marinaded in the spirit of gloomy 60s pop (think The Walker Brothers, or maybe the unhappier corners of Dusty Springfield’s discography), all vintage organ sounds and rhythms (as opposed to melodies) stabbed out by electric guitars, abetted by a chamber orchestra’s-worth of brass and string instruments. It’s lavish but not indulgent; far too haunted for that, it’s music that’s constantly glancing over its shoulder (it does look back).               

In this company, “The Flicker Of A Little Girl” is almost pop music, albeit not the sort of pop music that gets in the charts, of course – Stuart Staples’ lugubrious Eeyore croon pretty much puts paid to that (although now that Elbow have finally achieved mainstream, Mercury-scoring acceptance who knows?). It’s hard to imagine any song called “Come Feel The Sun” sounding chillier or more desolate than this, and even the swinging bachelor pad music of “E-Type” arrives soaked in ennui. The title track is devilishly seductive – think Bryan Ferry in horns and a forked tail – and “Boobar Come Back To Me” ladles on those 60s influences, building its tambourines and Greek chorus of backing vocals into a dramatic sob story. The album only regresses into the kind of generic Tindersticks-by-numbers that’s pretty much characterised their output for the last decade-and-a-half on slow, sweeping closing ballad “The Turns We Took”.              

It’s certainly not to this fine album’s disadvantage that the vinyl pressing sounds darn good for a modern day indie release with no audiophile pretensions, with the kind of dynamic range that’s not afraid of a little peace and quiet every now and then. Extra points to Beggars Banquet for bundling a download of the album with it as well.

TINDERSTICKS / VILLAGERS Manchester Cathedral 23 March 2010


Manchester Cathedral is an unusual venue choice - I still haven't quite got my head around the concept of beer (in glass bottles, no less) being sold within its confines - but a lovely one. Admittedly bands have to supply their own limited lighting and PA, but I find it hard to imagine any touring act trumping the cathedral's ornately carved rood screen as a performance backdrop.


Villagers is one Conor O'Brien, a guy with a gently Irish accent, an acoustic guitar and a cache of songs that are kinda Bright Eyes and rather good. That he looks a little like Nicholas Lyndhurst's emo nephew is neither here nor there. I don't know what his music sounds like in a studio context, where Villagers magically become a band, but several times during his almost-too-short set it occurs to me how well it would be suited to a walloping great New Order/Pet Shop Boys electropop soundtrack. In the minimal manner he presents it tonight, though, it's a perfect fit for the venue, with every word immaculately audible.


Tindersticks have a tendency to shapeshift from album to album and tour to tour. Tonight they're a septet that includes one particularly diversely talented gentleman on cello, saxophone and clarinet and a Stuart Staples who, greying and substantial, appears to be morphing into a John Cale lookalike.


As seems to be becoming traditional, they touch upon most if not all of latest album "Falling Down A Mountain". The title track makes a rumbling, oppressive set opener, all ratcheting tension and precious little release.  "Harmony Around My Table" plays a kind of demented, desperate Motown, and on "Peanuts" the absence of Mary Margaret O'Hara forces Staples to duet with himself. Perhaps inevitably, though, it's the earlier material that's most evocative, including "Can We Start Again", "Marbles" and, at the set's absolute peak, "Another Night In".


The band's greater amplitude brings with it more muddle, and with Stuart Staples' diction never being the clearest the narrative numbers seem a bit fumbled. Their considerable musical dexterity is essentially doomed in a venue that, for their kind of music at least, prizes atmospherics over acoustics, especially noticeable given that their last Manchester concert was in The Bridgewater Hall, which gets the balance the other way around. Concentrating on their latest opus at the expense of their considerable back catalogue also saps the evening of some of its potential. Frustratingly close to greatness, their contrary nature explains why, in a world of Doves and Elbows, mainstream success and recognition continues to elude them, perhaps to our ultimate benefit.


TINDERSTICKS Falling Down A Mountain (4AD) 

Having returned reinvigorated from a half decade of inactivity with 2008’s “The Hungry Saw”, Tindersticks appear to have learned more new tricks for its almost indecently hasty follow-up, “Falling Down A Mountain”. The opening title track ratchets up the tension throughout its six-and-a-half minute duration, Terry Edwards’ trumpet work nudging the whole towards a lopsided approximation of the concentric grooves of Miles Davis circa “On The Corner”. “Harmony Around My Table” finds Stuart A Staples, British indie’s perpetual Eeyore, wrapping his misery around a neo-Motown hand clapper. The rarely-spotted Mary Margaret O’Hara, reclusive genius behind the wondrous “Miss America” album, joins the band on “Peanuts” a duet that’s delicately positioned between irony and mockery, utter sincerity obliquely expressed. The locomotive, flamenco-tinged “She Rode Me Down” barges headlong through an array of thunderstorm effects, and with its thin, reedy (ha!) organ tone and metronomic backbeat “No Place So Alone” is almost The Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On” reimagined as a lament for the cuckolded.

These songs seem almost brutally simple in structure by Tindersticks standards, many of them hammering away at a single riff for their duration. This directness and concision is actually quite refreshing. There’s very little to wallow in here, the slo-mo balladry of “Keep You Beautiful” being the album’s most, or maybe only, typically Tindersticks track, but thankfully without the kind of rut-bound ennui that might once have entailed.

As in song, so in sound, “Falling Down A Mountain” has been blessed with a perfectly reasonable modern vinyl pressing, also arriving with a download coupon for those so inclined.

TINDERSTICKS The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester 17 October 2011


Probably the lowest of low-key beginnings, tonight’s first set opens with Stuart A. Staples, rocking the gentleman farmer look as if he’d just wandered in from a Barbour catalogue, his voice part-groan, part-croon, accompanied only by double bass and wheezing harmonium on a hesitant but beguiling “Bearsuit”. The ensemble expands to an octet but the mood of misty-eyed introspection rarely lifts, save for the strident shock of a trumpet solo during “Sleepy Song” and the ironically unfunky thump of a club-footed drum machine box on “Medicine” (at least, that’s what I think this unfamiliar song is called from hastily copying down the setlist during the interval, which also reveals that if that really was a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Kathleen” they played between “Waiting For The Moon” and “Don’t Ever Get Tired” it entirely slipped by me). It’s mostly a sumptuous sound they make, so calm and measured it almost oozes, but this is clearly no greatest non-hits setlist, inching as it does cautiously around the dustier, darker corners of the band’s catalogue for 35 or so mesmeric minutes.


Post-interval the real business of the evening commences, a warning on the screen above the stage promising adult content of an 18 certificate nature. Over 15 years and through six films Tindersticks have collaborated with the French director Claire Denis, a partnership celebrated in a luxurious, reassuringly expensive box set earlier this year and now in this UK tour. Rearranged into something like a concert suite, with Staples’ mumbled thanks indicating where he feels it appropriate to clap, the band play highlights of their soundtrack work accompanied by the appropriate languid, painterly images from Denis’ films. The diegetic sound from the original films is preserved, so we hear the dialogue and sound effects, with just (just!) the original score replaced by the living, breathing band themselves. It’s a fascinating approach, and all too easy to become swept up in what’s happening on the screen to the detriment of appreciating the music. It seems like a supremely egoless act for a band, who are effectively relegating themselves to a sideshow at their own concert. It’s only during the more recognisable song forms - for example “Tiny Tears” and a mesmeric, quietly pulverising “Trouble Every Day” - that Staples rises from his chair and prowls around the stage, still enveloped in shadow.


It must be a measure of the evening’s success that it leaves me longing to hear the band perform a live accompaniment to an entire Denis film, but I suspect the practical problems inherent in doing so would be insurmountable. These aren’t silent films requiring constant accompaniment, so the band would be employed only for only a fraction of the running time. If this reduced, condensed mosaic is as much as we’re going to get, though, it’s more than worth the effort.