Tindersticks - Bareback Review

The idea of a collection of Tindersticks videos will strike many people as a strange concept – there are few bands as unlikely to live up to the role of glamorous rock stars in promotional pop videos as Stuart Staples and his unphotogenic band. Even in a live context, the band tend to just shuffle onto the stage in a low-key fashion, deliver a pretty much static performance and then just wander off again. The key to their brilliance however is in that in-between moment – the music, the mood and the delivery – and rather than presenting an unrepresentative set of pop-promos of the band acting up to being something they are not, it is the aspect of capturing that particular Tindersticks mood in images that is contained in this set of short films by Martin Wallace, whose collaboration with the band extends from their earliest work in 1993 up to the present day.


The films contained here are completely anti-pop and far from commercial promotional pieces, illustrating the melancholy themes of Tindersticks’ lushly orchestrated soul ballads – dark little slices of life and everyday situations of people going about their daily business, reflecting the loneliness and isolation of life, and the bittersweet aspect of inner-city life, love and relationships. Tindersticks music is perfectly apt for the visual medium – the band contributing notable collaborative soundtracks that have added considerably to the mood of French director Claire Denis’ films Nénette et Boni and the dark and brooding Trouble Every Day. Most recently Tindersticks key musician Dickon Hinchcliffe’s provided the perfect accompaniment for Denis’ magnificent anti-fairytale film Vendredi Soir, that captures the little sparkle of magic and romance that can occur between two ordinary people, while Stuart Staples has contributed to the soundtrack for Denis' latest film, The Intruder (L’Intrus). Martin Wallace’s films are also perfectly in touch with this mood of bittersweet magic amidst the shabbiness and mundanity of the everyday.




DVD
The DVD includes all the video material that the band have made with Martin Wallace, but doesn’t include the videos to 'No More Affairs' or 'Dying Slowly'. The DVD is packaged in typically Tindersticks style – a handmade brown cardboard gatefold sleeve that flips open to hold the DVD in a cardboard sleeve on one side and a CD-sided booklet with video credits on the other. (It’s surprising how many other music DVDs omit this important yet basic information). The songs can be accessed individually by selecting a different body part of the Tindersticks’ Donkey – the case includes a diagram of which part plays which track. A play-all option can be selected by clicking on ‘Tindersticks’ from the menu. The DVD is region-free and in PAL format.

Tracklisting
City Sickness (4:07)
The band’s debut single forges their mood, style and thematic concerns and the video – filmed around Kensington Palace Gardens, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus – matches this perfectly in low resolution grainy colour, capturing the everyday monotony and superficiality of life. The band make cameo appearances in the film, but this is still far from a promotional pop video. Martin Wallace’s collaborator Jarvis Cocker also had a hand here editing the final film. 1.85:1 letterbox.


Travelling Light (4:48)
Again focussing on the mundane aspects of life, a couple are shown going about their separate business, getting together to go shopping and out to dance at a night club. Again, the film captures the balance of everyday life and how relationships fit into it. Filmed in Super 8, the film is ultra-grainy and indistinct. 1.33:1 aspect, black and white.

Bathtime (4:00)
“There’s a smell so sweet it’s sickly, it follows me into the room, hangs in the air like rotting perfume”. The first and perhaps only promo video proper for Tindersticks, this is the group performing in a circle, filmed in an unedited single shot of the camera swirling around the group. The black and white video is shown at 2.35:1 letterbox in crystal clear, high contrast lighting in black and white.


Rented Rooms (4:58)
Another apparent black and white promo-video, showing Stuart sharing a dressing room with a group of dancers, but the song breaks down after the introduction and turns into a lounge showband jazz version of the song in glorious colour with a line-up of exotic dancers. 2.35:1 letterbox.

Can We Start Again? (3:48)
The band are in a movie theatre. Staples sings to each of the women who appear on the screen, the camera dwelling on cleavages and jewellery. The video seems to reflect the song's dealing with a sense of maturity in relationships, the women’s bosoms taking on a maternal aspect, the rings representing the commitment that the singer wasn’t prepared to give. A good balance of pop-promo, film in its own right and a representation of the song lyrics. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Can Our Love… (6:01)
A split-screen film of Prague shows two different views of a couple, the two different scenes of their meeting and departing at the same time creating a melancholic counterpoint, particularly amidst the suitably grim, yet superficially glamorous and dramatic cityscapes of Prague. 1.85:1 letterbox.


Don’t Ever Get Tired (3:23)
“Don’t let those moments pass you by”. The video is simply a film of a child at a hairdressers. 4:3 aspect ratio.

Sometimes It Hurts (4:40)
The perfect Tindersticks video for the typical Tindersticks male/female ballad, this short film features the eternal Tindersticks couple (one working at a fairground, the other in a dogs' grooming salon) coping with the mundane aspects of life and relationships, while dreaming and longing unrealistically for something better and more glamorous. This film represents everything Tindersticks are about, captured perfectly in a 5 minute film, in the way that only the blend of highly-charged music and perfectly attuned images can do. Beautiful. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.



The Art of Lovemaking (2:07)
Again, this video captures another aspect of Tindersticks, their wicked sense of self-deprecating humour, and their total indifference to playing to an MTV audience, this is actually a short film set to their cheesy little instrumental keyboard arrangement, 'Sexual Funk', on their ‘Don’t Even Go There’ EP, done as a 1940's Soviet sex education film, showing a couple in different sexual positions without ever being together in the same shot. 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Video
As noted on the individual tracks, each of the films is presented in different aspect ratios – 1.33:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1, so the DVD image is non-anamorphic throughout. The picture quality is as good as the various film stocks each of the films were made on allow them to be. Blown-up Super 8 film looks exceptionally grainy with little detail on some of the early films, while later films – particularly the band performance videos – are crystal clear and sharp with no marks or scratches. There are no signs of any real artefact problems in the transfer either. Barring the lack of anamorphic enhancement on the widescreen films (and considering the different ratios, this would be expected), this is as good as you could expect to see these films looking.


Audio
The audio track is presented in one format only - as uncompressed PCM stereo, and I couldn’t be happier with the lack of choice. If only other music videos would consider this CD-quality sound format when putting out a DVD of music videos rather than unnecessarily remixing to 5.1 or merely reproducing the stereo through an inferior Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. That said, the sound to my ears doesn’t carry the full warmth and richness of the CD versions, although since I have separate Hi-Fi and Home Theatre set-ups, this could be solely be down to the difference in equipment.

Subtitles
There are no subtitles or printed reproductions of the lyrics anywhere in the DVD, so you’ll still have to struggle to make out the words of Stuart Staples’ low, mumbled delivery.

Extras
No extras on the DVD, although there are hidden alternate versions of Bathtime and Don’t Ever Get Tired. I couldn’t find any way to access these from the menu, but you can get to them if you select next from your remote control during The Art of Lovemaking, before the track finishes and takes you back to the new menu. I don’t see any real differences in these versions other than a shorter introduction of a few seconds before the music starts. The only other effect this has is in boosting the running time of the DVD on the player to 46 minutes.


Overall
As with most music videos, the temptation is to classify this as “for fans only”, but the songs here and the often beautiful, touching and ironic moments captured in these films does open them up to a wider audience much more than a standard, non-representative pop-single video of the band would do. If you haven’t heard Tindersticks before, this isn’t a bad place to start. If you’re a fan, the only disappointment here is the brevity of this 38-minute collection, but the appearance of Tindersticks on DVD will certainly be welcome and only enliven hopes that one of the band’s magnificent, intimate and powerful live performances will eventually make its way onto the DVD format.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
0 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:34:32

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