Tindersticks : Working For The Man: 1992 -1999

Wonderful career retrospective...

Nineteen ninety-two, and in a world of [a]Nirvana[/a] and [a]Ned’s Atomic Dustbin[/a], [a]Tindersticks[/a] strode besuited, tipsily romantic and touting singles of mordant lushness. Twelve years and eight million half-arsed fads on, there’s still no-one like them.

If bands had violin players back then they were called the [a]Levellers[/a] and had fleas. These days, well, fatalistic orchestral sadcore in suits is not a high roller in the casino of the pop mainstream. In the middle was Britpop, where every half-baked indie mob got a string section in to lend some desperate gravitas. It was a bit sad, and [a]Tindersticks[/a] made them all look like the fools they were.

The first disc of singles traces the development of their sound from 1992-1999, and betrays a band who (without even trying) co-opted legions of indie kids into swooning over a sound predominantly inspired by Motown and Al Green. Whichever way you look at that, these songs are brilliant – subtly huge swells of sonic grace emanating from, seemingly, nothing. Slightly more indebted to standard-issue indie on early singles ‘Marbles’ and ‘Patchwork’, by the time of ‘Tiny Tears’ and ‘Can We Start Again?’ the sextet had come close to perfecting their craft. Still there were curveballs: the incongruous but expertly executed surf guitar of ‘Her’, ‘Travelling Light”s quite sublime country soul, the funereal grandeur (that justifies the reviewer typing that) of ‘Another Night In’.

Disc Two, a flipsides and rarities collection, is by nature more disjointed and sprawled but allows the band to explore ever more flamboyant instrumental flourishes, bold jazz backdrops and even Pavement covers (‘Here’, slowed down and effortlessly made the ‘Sticks’ own).

Yes, it is ever so stylised, but most great pop is – and maybe Stuart Staples’ tearfully rumbling vocals veer close to self-parody (or Vic Reeves’

club singer) at times. You can pick holes in the tracklisting too – if anyone can explain the omission of the single version of ‘No More Affairs’, we’ll be amazed – but adoration of this band should be mandatory.

Noel Gardner

Get ‘Working For The Man – The Island Years’ at the NME Shop