Five years after their last album, and 18 months since their seemingly final gig, who would have thought we'd be gifted with a new Tindersticks album at all, let alone one that stands out as their best since their first two albums? Their lineup may be depleted, but make no mistake--from the first haunting notes of "Introduction" to the last soulful moments of "The Turns We Took"--The Hungry Saw is as good as it gets. The traditional Tindersticks sound--part smoky heartbreak, part sinister minor-key noir malevolence--is present and correct, and far more focussed, resulting in an early contender for the best album of 2008. Hardcore fans may lament the missing elements, particularly departed violin/second vocalist/arranger Dickon Hinchliffe, but the strength of the tracks, and the sheer thrill of hearing Stuart Staples' sleepy Cohen-esque croon tackle such gems as the title track, the gently mournful "All the Love", or the sinister "Mother Dear" prove that the band are as good as they ever were. The key moment is "Boobar, Come Back to Me"--as affecting and epic as anything they've done, and a good sign that Tindersticks still have a fruitful few albums in them yet. --Thom Allott
Oddly, it seems brooding neo-indie veterans are feeling the threat of the credit crunch just as much as conglomerate behemoths. Tindersticks have undertaken a stark restructure, essentially halving the band and leaving a stripped-bare, unfussy take on proceedings.
Of course, pie charts and dollar signs haven't driven such a move, more an attempt to simplify the Nottingham collective's sound for their first album together in five years. For such a rudimentary endeavour, it's surprisingly refined. Stomach the unrelentingly morose introduction, and you're halfway to finding that out for yourself.
Their distinguishing vibe has escaped from the smoky lounge and made its way up a frosty hillside, where gazing into the middle distance is mandatory, and the very concept of melody is passé. Faintly harsh, perhaps, but there is a positive to be unearthed from this. The Hungry Saw is a complex and highly introspective venture, and makes no bones about it: This is an album for Tindersticks, by Tindersticks, and steadfastly refuses to stray from this.
Resultantly, it proves somewhat unforgiving territory for ears not accustomed to the cult of Tindersticks. Yet for those who feared Waiting For The Moon was the irrevocable swansong, The Hungry Saw will provide a welcome return. Incidentally, it's this material which The Hungry Saw takes its command from - while the band's musical path has remained relatively linear (within their own sub-genre, at least), their more melancholic latter period continues to play out here.
You may be required to dig pretty deep to find a level on which to engage with music so heavily maudlin. It would be easy to ascribe - or dismiss - The Hungry Saw with implications of bleak cloudiness or film noir, but look hard enough (on The Other Side of the World or E-type, for example) and it's apparent that the album does carry a veiled tenderness with a very human constituent.
Tindersticks know their craft, and can execute it with finesse. But if you hadn't already been spellbound by their uniqueness up until this point, it's safe to assume The Hungry Saw will be lost on you altogether. --Al Fox
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