Bad Seeds

 Posted by
Jan 302013

TTYONoir is a term that gets used all to gratuitously, but the music of Tindersticks does indeed conjure shadows, rain-soaked alleyways, French cigarettes, and a concealed stiletto. This long-running and dapper Nottingham sextet stood distinctly apart from ’90s Britpop, working their elegantly romantic, debauched gutter ballads and orchestral pop up to the present day.

[audio:|titles=Tyed] [audio:|titles=Jism]

They are theatrical, volatile, visceral, and louche, with singer Stuart Staples’ rich baritone at the center of this confection. Think Lee Hazlewood, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Serge Gainsbourg, and Dean Martin at his most slurred. Those vocals, in fact, may be a deal breaker for some listeners. It’s a conscientious voice, spinning mumbled and miserablist tales of appetites and desires thwarted by alcohol, mistakes, betrayal, lies, bodily fluids, death, and regret. It evokes the literature of Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and Charles Bukowski.

[audio:|titles=I’ve Been Loving You Too Long] [audio:|titles=Her]

The music is tightly wound, with melancholic orchestration, Stax soul, flamenco guitars, spaghetti western horns, Bernard Hermann stabs of violin, and Blue Note jazz touches. The aggregate of the band speaks softly, but carries the stab of cynicism, fatalism, and weighty moral ambiguity–the burden of mules, a carnival of lost souls.

[audio:|titles=Ballad of Tindersticks] [audio:….mp3|titles=Can Our Love…]



  8 Responses to “Bad Seeds”

  1. I haven’t heard these guys in forever. In 1993 or ’94, when my wife and I were living in Hungary and getting to travel around Europe for her work and our play, I was at a party somewhere – Barcelona, I believe – where I met a guy who told me he was in or had been in a band called Tindersticks, or maybe he was just friends with them. It’s a hazy memory. I’d not heard of the band. We jammed later that night, with him singing a song I’d recently written. The guy had a great voice. (If memory does serve at all he told me he was the band’s bassist.) Regardless, we returned home to the States a few weeks later, and I learned that this band was actually fairly well known and successful. I remember hearing their music then and thinking it was “pretty good” for “folky” stuff. Hearing it now I like the music a lot more. The singer is a tough sell. The guy I sang with at that party in Barcelona, whether he was actually in Tindersticks or not, was much more to my liking. Good stuff, though, Slim. I like the way the music is presented enough that I might be able to get used to the singer.

  2. jeangray

    Tindersticks are a great band. Pretty sure everybody around here is aware of that already — or they should be! 😉

  3. Thanks Jean, I never know what kind of reception my tastes will garner around here.

  4. jeangray

    Hey! And I had not heard their version of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” before. Very nice.

  5. jeangray

    I for you would be interested as to why the singer is such a tough sell. Is it the baritone? Too much vibrato?

  6. As a Feargall Sharkey and Bryan Ferry fan I have no problem with vibrato. It’s a lot more drama than I need to hear from a singer. He’s got a bit of the “deathbed” style of singing that’s so popular these days.

    “Lean closer, my son,” the great man said as he lay dying, “I have something very important to tell you.”

    I usually feel like I’m being taken advantage of when a singer is that precious with his or her performance.

  7. misterioso

    That’s just the alcohol, mistakes, betrayal, lies, bodily fluids, death, and regret you’re hearing, my friend.

  8. I once read a description of his singing style as “Fozzie Bear”.

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