TINDERSTICKS: The Hungry Saw [Constellation]

Nobody said loving Tindersticks was easy. Since 1992, the Nottingham, England, outfit has pursued a sonic and lyrical palette according to the gray and gold of its elders (Hazlewood, Brel, Gainsbourg, Morricone) with occasional curves thrown into its thoroughly somber and sometimes disturbed arrangements. While other artists (Nick Cave, for example) have followed those roads with thunderous footsteps and an incumbent litany of sad/jealous/hateful lyrics, Tindersticks have walked softly and played in more subtle, noirish tones. But with three members of the band now gone (including writer/violinist Dickon Hinchliffe), the off-kilter madness that would once throw the group into a tizzy is missing from seventh album The Hungry Saw. Led by mercurial crooner Stuart Staples, the current lineup’s grand balladry is more stately and slow-boiled than ever. “The Other Side Of The World” and “All The Love” are smoky and choked-up, while “The Turns We Took” is cool and laconic and mesmerizingly so. Yet the grandeur of such tunes as the gospeled-up “Mother Dear” are touched by a too-severe sentiment. Tindersticks may have been in a dismal mood in the past, but at least it seemed like fun. Being sealed off from its own sense of spirited weirdness and play has made them dull boys. [www.cstrecords.com]

—A.D. Amorosi