After the break-up, after the break, after the reformation, what next from Tindersticks Mk II?
The answer, confusingly is that they keep it simple, but for them to do this requires a good deal of intricacy and experimentation. Falling Down a Mountain is definitely not the sound of a band pacing backwards through its own footsteps - it’s the sound of a band occasionally working hard at carving out a sound that would come more easily to others - take the dirty rock of Black Smoke, for example: the fact that you can even use a word so obvious as rock and fix it to a Tindersticks song sounds revolutionary.
That it sits two-thirds of the way through an album launched by a fairly abstract title track forged from a trumpet, a wooden block and some abstract lyrics (‘hey won’t you come on baby come on / falling down a mountain’) is remarkable. That this introduction should be followed by a song as delicate as Keep You Beautiful only more so. That the next track should itself give way to the jazzy Harmony Around My Table, which starts out like a good old piano and plink Tindersticks song, adds in some la-la and na-na, but which, if I’m not mistaken, ends with Stuart Staples going a little bit scat.
Peanuts is a duet about loving not very much, or too much, I can’t be sure, but either way its wackier than the old Tindersticks duets ever were. They go all tex-flamenco like the good old days on She Rode Me, but again with a twist of lime, and by lime, I mean flute. And then the aforementioned Black Smoke. A rock song. It’s followed by No Place So Alone. It’s bluesy. For this band, this is breaking new ground.
If I sound wide-eyed, well that’s because I am. I’m suddenly realising that Falling Down a Mountain fell through a crack when it was released in January 2010 - whatever I was listening to then, it wasn’t this: everything seems new, from the titles to the moods.
It’s just that I can’t fall in love with Falling Down a Mountain. Something that was, no longer is. It was there long ago, before the hiatus; it was even there on The Hungry Saw. I don’t even know quite what it is or was, but I can feel its absence. The closest I can get is that Falling Down a Mountain might not be an album so much as a collection - its parts assembled from pieces meant for other works.