This was always going to be a problem album. After 10 years and 6 albums, live offerings released as official bootlegs, and some soundtrack work to boot, a new Tindersticks album after an almost five year absence, with only half the original band on board had the potential to be anything from messy disaster to heart-grown-fonder triumph.
It takes some getting used to, and not everything works, but it is in no way a failure. It starts, brilliantly and amusingly, with Introduction. Well, not starts so much as crawls out into the sunlight, blinking, or possibly winking: you think you know us, it seems to say, well what do you reckon to this? A disjointed beginning; odd little piano bursts here and there, teasing the prospect of another spoken-word track, delivering nothing of the sort, and slinking back into the dark.
Then Yesterdays Tomorrows jumps out in its place, but something’s not quite right: I’m no drummer, no expert of musical technique, but something feels different. Not wrong; different. It takes most of this song to work through the feeling that you’re listening to a Tindersticks tribute band, if the very idea wasn’t so much nonsense. But I know it’s not you, Tindersticks, it’s me. See, there are times when this album feels like the work of several individuals trying to sound like one whole - I’m not sure the strings, vocal and percussion on The Other Side of the World mesh entirely successfully, for example - but I know at the same time that when it doesn’t feel right I can point to the change of line-up, but that when it does work, as on The Turns We Took my first thought is “classic Tindersticks!”. I’m sorry; I’ve been loving you too long. The Turns We Took is both old and new, worn and fresh, a perfect blend of the ideas, inspirations and personalities of the new line-up that manages at the same time to pay implied tribute to those that have gone before. (Of course the guitar sounds familiar - David Boulter is still the man playing it…).
Ultimately The Hungry Saw is an album that needs to be assessed in the context of what followed as much as what came before, and with the advantage of that hindsight, it’s easy to be more positive. The harmony and backing vocals on the beautiful and twisted fantasy that is the.title track don’t seem so jarring any more, just different. The same relief can be felt for Boobar Come Back to Me. And in the end, for the album as a whole. It’s not one of their best, but it’s not the lacklustre failure I occasionally used to think it: it’s a bit light, with E-Type and The Organist Entertains helping only to making up the numbers, but there’s still enough promise to keep a fan interested, waiting anxiously for the next Tindersticks album.