Album Review: Tindersticks - The Waiting Room

You have to recognise it as Staples’ strongest set of songs for a good long while.

Rating:

There aren’t too many immediate points of valid comparison for Tindersticks; they’ve turned out five full-lengths since their 2008 reunion because they have a fanbase that can’t quite get these kinds of kicks anywhere else.

‘The Waiting Room’ is certainly faithful to the chamber pop template that has long proved the group’s calling card; it’s gloomy, sparse and occasionally stormy, generating real atmosphere in droves and understanding the power of economy as far as vocal turns are concerned. The claustrophobic instrumental ‘Fear of Emptiness’ serves as the record’s midpoint and centrepiece, as well as representing the album in microcosm; there are no layers or construction jobs on the doomy likes of ‘Second Chance Man’, and on the standout ‘Were We Once Lovers?’, Staples’ tortured vocals run across a guitar-and-synth partnership that’s equal parts doomy and dreamy.

The title track, acapella if not for a borderline-kitsch, horror-movie organ, is an exercise in taut songwriting from Staples, and breezy closer ‘Like Only Lovers Can’ provides a nice counterpoint; given how stringently as Tindersticks limit themselves instrumentally, they squeeze an impressive amount of life out of what they do bring into the studio. ‘The Waiting Room’ is reserved and considered, yet you still come out of the other end feeling like you’ve run the emotional gamut; in that respect, at least, you have to recognise it as Staples’ strongest set of songs for a good long while.