Tindersticks - Live In San Sebastian 2012 Album Review
In principle, the decision to release a live Tindersticks album is a puzzling one, especially one that is merely a mirror to their latest release. Should you choose not to dismiss it simply as cashing in, the recording of their set deep in the Basque country and distribution as a compliment to a repackaged version of this year's The Something Rain and also as a short-run vinyl release seems peculiar for a band with the style and sound of Tindersticks. Yes, The Something Rain is their strongest full-length by far since their reformation in 2006 and a contender for their strongest in the two decades since their formation, but it isn't an album with a lot of room for manoeuvre, and as those who have seen Stuart Staples' world-weary collective live will attest to, they aren't the kind of band to rewrite the script on stage.
Yet Live In... is a worthy purchase. Rewrite the script they may not, but there are sufficient tangents to ensure it does not feel like a mere photocopy, particularly on pacier moments such as album highlight 'This Fire Of Autumn'. Here it adopts more of a disco vibe, if only said disco was full of paranoid and self-conscious patrons more focused on drinking than dancing; Stuart's crooning vocals are backed throughout by slapped guitars and snappy drums and the falsetto of its chorus no longer sounds like a sore thumb.
The horns that coat The Something Rain are given more prominence also, which is certainly a good thing. They positively swing on 'Slipping Shoes', marrying up to Korg waltzes and walking basslines that offer nods to soul, blues and jazz and close penultimate track 'Come Inside' with the most self-indulgent trumpet solos put down on tape over the past God knows how many decades. That such shamelessly 'smooth' playing does not sound sickly or schmaltzy is perhaps the biggest indicator of the strength of Stuart Staples' song-writing.
The album's sparser moments do not differ as wildly to their original counterparts; 'Medicine' could be a carbon copy but for the horns that creep in midway through, but the performance of them is equally as strong. Your view on Live In San Sebastian 2012 will no doubt rest mostly on that of The Something Rain, and as such it won't change your opinion of it, but it may well heighten your enjoyment and for those yet to purchase it offers a (not quite completely) different view.
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