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With their fourth album [B]'Simple Pleasures'[/B] skulking patiently in the shadows, it's time to see whether they can still cast their stage glitter over coal-black turmoil...

It’s an alternative dimension. A construct where reality is actually an illusion created to sustain mankind, and where immaculately fringed heroes in long black coats and troubled expressions fight with the truth. What is The Matrix? Forget the brain programming and the magic capsules – its best just to ask [a]Tindersticks[/a], the true dark masters of mood.

Here in a small field in northern France, at a laid-back Gallic shrug of a festival, the midnight air is heavy with scented smoke and warm hay – at least, until Stuart Staples opens his mouth to sing. That muffling drawl blankets the speakers and suddenly, the bucolic idyll vanishes, the night thickens with a cloud of Gitanes and weighty gloom, and the good times roll right away. While real life includes flippant conversation, occasional smiling, and even moments of happiness, in [a]Tindersticks[/a]’ carefully created grid of melancholia, none of that can be allowed to exist.

With their fourth album ‘Simple Pleasures’ skulking patiently in the shadows, it’s time to see whether they can still cast their stage glitter over coal-black turmoil. First song is the nimble, soul-warm emotional blackmail of ‘Can We Start Again?’, and, as they know, it’s no idle question. Little has changed (although the lack of suits is disturbingly smart-casual) yet their persistence in scratching at the same open wounds becomes increasingly noble.

Watching Stuart shuffle like an inebriated crab through the pondering ‘CFGF’, or pacing through the languid deceptions of ‘Pretty Words’, it starts to feel almost perverse, like returning for some sordidly emotional service you can only receive at their hands. Drowning song ‘Bathtime’, or the unrequited desire of ‘City Sickness’ have already proved that it’s worth leaving the money on the table for them – but if they’ve started plagiarising their own body of work, at least they’ve found new veins to open.

The instrumental ‘From The Inside’ wears the same fedora as the second album’s ‘Vertrauen II’, but its crepe-soled organ pads the dockside streets looking for new ways of finding trouble. ‘If She’s Torn’ is blood-shot confessional, while ‘I Know That Loving’ is a muttered morass of sinister water metaphors and cabaret dissolution, PJ Harvey doused in rum and hormones. Stuart growls what might be goodnight. Somehow, it sounds an unlikely prospect.

Yes, [a]Tindersticks[/a] might keep making the same sound, but after all, it’s for people who keep making the same mistakes. Lifestyle music for those maybe lacking in life, but never, ever in style.

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