I am slowly, but surely catching up with my personal backlog of albums I have wanted to review from earlier in the year. This is the eleventh studio album from Tindersticks, which was released on 22nd January 2016, so I am just over six months late with this review. Formed between 1991 or 1992 (Wikipedia has both dates shown on the same article), the band have been whisper in hushed tones in the indie community, with an almost god-like reverence to that name and their sounds. They are also a band which I had not listened to until 2015, due to the sheer volume of music that I listen to on a daily basis I have always said I tend to miss a lot of stuff as well as find out about a lot of stuff. They are a strange act to be honest, full of anger and love with a hint of passion for everything, giving a similar sound to Nick Cave in places which I am still yet to full name down and as impossible to pigeon hole into one style. I had a blog for this one started, which has somehow vanished into the void and I am starting again; something of a good idea at time, but a little frustrating as well. This album was created with a film compiled of various short movies to each song from various directors, it is a multi-platform experience and one that is best experienced as a whole - but on this blog (as with all blogs on this page), we focus on the music alone - so hope does it sound?
Starting off the album is "Follow Me" which is an instrumental track that reminds me a bit of the theme from the movie "Midnight Cowboy" - but it is actually based on the theme for 1962 film "Mutiny of The Bounty", it has a relaxing vibe which drifts over you and it is over a little too soon. This was actually the last song to be recorded for the album as they needed an introduction, which is something that I totally admire. It is a very sombre way to start the album, a little too relaxing for my taste yet also a beautiful number. "Second Chance Man" keeps this minimalist theme going on, with a sparse piece of music that has more space between the notes and passages. It is another beautiful song, but it is not kick starting the album for me and whilst it has grown on me now, I do remember that it took a long time for me to make peace with it. The album for me starts with the third song - "Were We Once Lovers?", which has one of the best bass groves of 2016 and that has remains the same to this day. A song about two people who were once intimate and are now almost strangers to each other, it is still a minimalist which actually high on drama and a contradiction in terms as the vocals are delivered with such passion that it becomes the very centre of the world whilst it is on - it is a beautiful song and one of my favourite from the album.
"Help Yourself" is all about gaining self-belief and confidence, it is done with some of the tongue being placed firmly in the cheek with some of the lines. As the album progresses along, the music is fleshing out, gaining further structure and presence. It is still very stark in its own way, but there is an energy that has not been present in the earlier songs and it also helped me understand and appreciate the first half of the album a lot more and it helps focus the album going forward as well. "Hey Lucinda" is the next song and it is about two lovers who are clearly on different paths, heading towards different places and still not quite detached. It features vocals from Lhasa de Sela (known as Lhasa for short), a lady who sadly past away in 2010; the song was for a previous project, but it got put to the side due to her sad passing. It is one of the strongest songs on the album, it is tinted with a sad realisation that something is ending and there is nothing that you can do but accept it. It is a song I loved from the first moment I heard it, it is an unusual piece that was latched in my brain for ages after I first heard it - with the extra facts, it is even more heart-breaking. "Fear of Emptiness" is the next song which starts with some light percussion, interrupted with some synth and it moves into a mirror piece for "Follow Me" in terms of style and pace. It is a slow and determined instrumental number that fills in the gaps of "Follow Me" and acts as an emotional break from the world of "Hey Lucinda", a calm moment in a calm album - it sounds like it should not work, but it really hits the spot. "How He Entered" is back to the story telling element of the band, something that they are excelling at throughout this album. The song is slow, it is something that you will either love or hate and I do not think there will be a casual fan of this number. To be honest, it is one of the weaker songs on the album; but it is still interesting and even now I am still trying to make my mind up if I like it or if it is something more.
The title track "The Waiting Room" is next and it strips everything back once again, for the most part it is just organ and vocals, only being joined every now and then with gentle slight percussion and only heart break for accompaniment. It is a heart breaker of a number, not one for when you are in a good mood as it takes you to a darker place and one that will accompany you when the shadows are long and painful in the dark of the night. "Planting Holes" is another instrumental track, this time with a percussion section that reminds me of the sound of a stick going along a rail or rainwater hitting off pans. It is somehow relaxing to these ears, it feels like a song that is designed for the period in the night when everything is quiet and reflective. I like the mood of this piece and wish it had have been extended slightly, however, I do have a repeat function for this number. The penultimate song of the album is called "We Are Dreamers" which has such a dark and unsettling undertone to the song with extra vocals supplied by Jehnny Beth of Savages, it is a dark and strange number that explores the darker side of indie music and it is not one for the weak at heart. It is just pipped for song of the album, but it is one that absolutely rules the second half of this album with a dark foreboding to the music that gives it a preacher quality as if someone is shouting to the night with venom and fury. "Like Only Lovers Can" gives the album a gentle ending, which is totally in keeping with the album. It is a gentle song about a flawed love, a destructive love and the aftermath of an explosive argument that has went over the top. It is a strange mixture of styles and it is one of those endings that reminds me of "Jealousy" by Pet Shop Boys; it has that mixture of beauty and fractured beauty that makes the world a strange and wonderful place. Musically, it is in keeping with the album and ending that the album requires - dignified and stylish.
This album is sort of like a modern art exhibition; it is full of context, but there is not much on show and it is very minimalist. Depending on the mood of the listener will affect how they view the album, I myself have had my opinion from "this is wonderful" to "zzzzzzzzzzzz" within a matter of days and it is still volatile all these months on. However, it cannot be said that it is not a beautiful and fragile piece of work, the band sound battle worn and tight, the vocals of Stuart Staples are beautiful and they know when force is required and when to be as gentle as a lover. The album is one that really warrant further listens, just tread carefully with your mood.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out
Top track - Were We Once Lovers?
You can visit the Tindersticks website here
You can also purchase The Waiting Room from the Tindersticks Bandcamp page here
You can follow the activities of Tindersticks on Facebook here
You can stream The Waiting Room on Deezer here
You can stream The Waiting Room on Spotify here
You can stream The Waiting Room on Tidal here