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Tindersticks | Can Our Love... (Beggars Banquet)
When their first album came out in 1994 it was something of a revelation. A British band that sounded totally original and, more importantly, totally necessary. The law of diminishing returns took its brutal toll, however, and their last album, 1999's Simple Pleasure, was one long yawn of faux soul vamps and uninspired arrangements. A lot was hanging on this album. Would they carry on down the slippery slope or would they rediscover what made their first couple of albums so special? Well, the answer, if anything, is a bit of both. There are a couple of tracks that pick up the Simple Pleasure blueprint and stretch it to new lengths but there's also a freshness and vitality to some of these songs that has eluded the band for a long time. Opener, Dying Slowly, is perfect, mirroring the muted desperation of the first album, indulging in that particular brand of existential ennui and reaching a tremulous bridge where Stuart Staples sounds once again like Elvis having a nervous breakdown. People Keep Comin' Around is pleasant enough, sung by band member Dickon Hinchliffe, but there's no bite to it, just gently pulsing horns and strings. Tricklin' is an ethereal snippet of multi-layered vocals over a single organ chord and far more interesting, leading up to the slowly building, languid ooze of the title track. The nine minute Sweet Release, the worst track, is like an outtake from the last album and, curiously, it's these soul numbers that are the most soulless and prefab'd things here. Luckily, we're back on track with No Man In The World, a delicately poised, part spoken-word piece that starts with Staples describing a love filled with "the violence and the shame / Banging my head against the wall / Waiting to explode" and which ultimately descends into "the thrill of nothing / The smell of the flames." This and the last track, Chilitetime, on which Staples' voice starts off as just a vibration in the speakers and builds towards a swirling finale that's more Velvets than Chi-Lites, pose the question, once again, of whether Tindersticks are the best British band of the last ten years.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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