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stuart A staples | Lucky Dog Recordings 03-04 (Beggars Banquet)
Tindersticks always struck me as remarkable band. A string drenched, doomed romantic version of the JBs. No show boating or thrills, just a beautiful adherence to the music. There was never any filler or superfluous grandstanding in their rich and spellbinding sound. The songs, although intricate sounded so organic.
A Stuart Staples solo project struck me as an interesting proposition. Which darkened Parisian side street would the man with the nicotine croon choose to stroll down?
On 'Lucky Dog Recordings' he has distilled the Tindersticks' red wine melancholy down to its very core. Sparse and haunting, the music is constructed from a few primary sounds. Strummed guitars, dusty pianos, brass and cheap electronic organ sounds bathe the songs in an austere poignant light.
The album opens with a glacial instrumental, Somerset House, from which Staples appears to be absent. The wordless vocal melody is beautifully sung by Gina Foster, as Yann Tiersen's piano playing fractures behind her. Marseilles Sunshine's lingering organ chords and distorted guitar break quietly seethe while Say Something Now ups the tempo with it breezy shuffle before the brass and guitars disappear into a tangle of discordant feedback. Friday Night is a winter gardens out of season waltz; the rattle of a cheap rhythm preset overlaid with a spectral organ melody. Dark Days sounds like Ian Curtis singing from beyond the grave, and the guitar is so soaked in reverb and echo it sounds like the old Joe Meek trick of recording in the bathroom. Staples sings of the pain and heartache that "finds me the moment I wake..."
It's so weary and heavy with portent that you're relieved when People Fall Down opens with a blast of warm brass. Along with She Doesn't Have To Be Good and I've Come A Long Way it forms a trio of songs that mine the country soul vibe that Tindersticks mastered so well. Here the space in the arrangements allows Staples to explore the limits of his voice. He finds new grains, deeper bruises and beleaguered caresses, making this an understated but unequivocal success.