Tindersticks – Marbles, Joe Stumble // For Those…, Benn (no. 6 Records) 1993. So I recently got a chance to see Tindersticks live in Chicago. It was a pretty amazing show made all the more surprising when you consider some of the hesitation I felt going into it. See, a lot of the genius of the band seems in my opinion, to originate in the obvious creative tension between multi-instrumentalist Dickon Hinchliffe and lead crooner/band leader Stuart Staples. Although I have enjoyed Stuart’s solo albums, I also felt they lacked the epic romanticism of Tindersticks and so I logically credited a lot of that to Hinchcliffe who left the band in 2006. Also, my favourite Tindersticks albums are Curtains (1996) and Waiting For The Moon (2003), which I also believe are their two most over the top albums. Their most recent LP, The Hungry Saw while almost as good, does not quite reach the heights of those two albums. I hope I am not damning the new album with faint praise because it is one of the best of 2008, which is probably why I chose to attend the concert. But I attended with some hesitation.
But wait! Before I go any further I need to say something about the venue itself, The Epiphany Episcopal Church. It’s this old gothic church on the Southside, just north of the barrio on Ashland. I don’t even remember if the place had lights besides candlelight (and the stage lights). It was freezing cold outside and I don’t believe the place had heat either. It stayed warm enough as long as you kept your coat on however and really the whole experience of seeing Tindersticks in this setting was such a profoundly aesthetic one that I didn’t even mind the cold. In fact, with the music and the church, the cold just added to the whole overwhelmingly British vibe of the evening.
Also adding to the British vibe of the evening were Sally Timms and Jon Langford from the Mekons, who opened the show with a set of acoustic tunes. I have seen them a number of times in Chicago at this point and they are always entertaining. This was not different. Shortly after, Tindersticks started up their set and played the entire new album with a few very cool oldies thrown in. The highlight for me was their performance of My Oblivion which was just a lush and sweeping as the recording and experienced within the cold, candle-lit ambiance of the Epiphany Episcopal Church, it was just perfect. Even though the crowd was mid-size, it was still very enthusiastic and the band returned for three encores. Something I had never seen before. All in all, I left the show convinced that Tindersticks are and were one of the best bands of my generation.
Now I know a lot of people may slag me for saying that but frankly I don’t give a shit. You can ignore this and listen to your Decembrists records or your Cat Power records or your Mountain Goats, My Morning Jacket or whatever. Makes no difference to me.
So, here’s a listen to one of their earliest singles. Already the creative push and pull between Staples and Hinchliffe are on full display in the title song, Marbles. In it, Staples narrates a characteristically British ode to a doomed female in his detached baritone while Hinchliffe croons over the chorus. All the while the band chugs along behind them sounding not unlike Andy Warhol-era Velvet Underground. You may also notice another song on this EP with a title that reminds you of something or someone.