I really think more albums should start with a gentle nine-minute spoken-word piece that takes in custard creams, a job nearly done, a job not done at all, cigars, the little-observed truth that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best Bond film (“if you accept it as a whole and not just get hung up about George Lazenby”), and a playful twist in the tale.
Not that many bands would have the ability to wing their way so freely through a track like Chocolate; fewer still would have what it takes to follow it with Show Me Everything, a fired up, tanked up song that makes their earlier soulful meanderings seem limp in comparison. This Fire of Autumn even raises the stakes and the tempo, which it achieves with the help of a glockenspiel. And hey - why not? Frozen plays a game of catch-me-if-you-can with Stuart Staples’ vocal, its echo turned up to 11, while a guitar scratches away somewhere in the background, and a saxaphone invents melodies of its own: when you’ve been around a while, you’ve earned the right to play games such as these.
The Something Rain is shot through with style and a casually suave know-how: the lazy, after hours jazz of Come Inside, with its (and I can barely believe I’m saying this) unexpectedly and almost comically beautiful sax outro; the brass that both breathes life into and closes out Slippin Shoes; the organ and various others that pass in and out throughout Medicine and A Night So Still.
It would be so easy at this stage of their career for Tindersticks to lapse into self-parody, to become a painful cliche or pastiche of what has made them so worth cherishing through their days. That they avoid this altogether, and with such apparent ease, on The Something Rain is the mark of a band with new-found easy-going confidence. Having broken themselves completely, it has taken time for the Tindersticks to pick out the splinters, find their pieces and reassemble themselves. In doing so, finding parts of uncertain purpose, they’ve given them new roles, and found new combinations. Any fears that their best days were all long behind them, any thoughts that The Hungry Saw and Falling Down a Mountain marked the beginning of the end must surely be thrown merrily to the four winds. The Something Rain is as good as anything from the wellspring that formed the first two albums, or the period just before their break-up.