Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Devil in the Eye

With today being the first of May - May Day - it's a good time to revisit the story of the greatest thing I've ever heard anyone say.

(Note: My writing style two years ago was a little overwrought. Imagine me telling this story today - two years older, a more confident blogger, more jaded, more serene.)

You should listen to two of the best Tindersticks songs I've heard in years. And I've heard them all. These are from their new album, out this week.

Which reminds me of the day in 1995 when John and I drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. We were coming back from a non-lost weekend, in time for a Sunday night show at the Troubador - the Tindersticks opening for Stephin Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields). We were Magnetic Fields fans then. Who wasn't, with The Charm of the Highway Strip defining '95 better than anything, anyone ever could?

We didn't really know who the Tindersticks were. Their name sounded cool. I think I knew they were British. So we get to the Troubador - legendary home of 70s L.A. folkies, the place where Elton John went from obscurity to worldwide fame in the time it took him to finish a 14-show residence in 1970 - and we settle in, waiting for the iconic Merritt to sing sad songs about the road. But it's the Tindersticks who blow us away - Stuart Staples in his Bryan Ferry suit singing his soul out to the audience of 74 or so people, the rest of the band providing confident sturdy European accompaniment... making us all feel like we were in Berlin and Paris at the same time, between two wars... any two wars.

The next day, I buy the second Tindersticks album - the one with the pale sad man on the cover - thinking its their first one. Weeks later, I buy their first album, thinking it's their second (looking at the song titles, I think there was a definite liquid/fluid motif running through this album.). I put Tiny Tears on every mixtape I made between '95 and '98. No wonder the girls thought I was sad.

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