TINDERSTICKS – Falling Down A Mountain (2010)

On Falling Down A Mountain, Stuart Staples’ voice at times recalls Nick Cave, Matt Berninger and Leonard Cohen; however, musically, Falling Down A Mountain bears little resemblance to any of the aforementioned performers. Tindersticks lack the headstrong theatrics of Nick Cave’s compositions. They don’t flirt with the beauty between dark and light abstractions like Cohen does. And they don’t populate their songs with all manner of romanticism like The National do. No, Tindersticks make simple, uncomplicated songs that you can imagine swirling alongside cigarette smoke in a bar from an old black and white film. In short, they’re the last band you’d expect to wind up on Constellation Records alongside A Silver Mt. Zion and Evangelista. And yet, they are.

Aside from the sweeping, sometimes brooding album-closer Piano Music, Tindersticks don’t deviate much from the classicism that’s always defined them. The songs on Falling Down A Mountain feel intimate and worn, like you’ve known them your whole life, when you really haven’t. Overall, Falling Down A Mountain is an album I enjoyed well enough, though I have the same problem with it that I’ve had with the band’s other albums; namely, I enjoy the band’s more lively material better. Songs like She Rode Me Down, Black Smoke, and the album’s title track resonate with me more than songs like, say Hubbard Hills or Peanuts. There’s a disconnect for me, hearing songs that are so forceful and brimming with energy next to some songs that sound as if they’re just be laying there, wasting energy. Though the one piano ballad on the album, Factory Girls, affects me when I hear it; maybe it’s because it grows into something larger and louder at the end. Who knows? The one thing I do know, though, is that Tindersticks have been around for ages, and the lounge aspect of their sound will probably always be there, so this is just something I’ll have to get used to on their albums. I haven’t done it yet. But there’s still hope. And time.

Falling Down A Mountain (like Tindersticks themselves) has a limited appeal, but it’s not because of any shortcomings – it’s because the band are so committed to one specific, classical sound, that any listener under, say, 30, who stumbles upon this albim might just tune out as soon as it starts. Some people can’t handle the past if it’s not Lady Gaga or a Journey reunion. That’s no way to live, in my book. So if you’re looking for an album that’ll fit nicely next to Jeff Buckley’s Grace and that Morrissey Best-Of you’ve got, this one should do nicely.

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