Britain’s Tindersticks inhabit a strangely intellectualized netherworld: while they definitely derive at least part of their spare, emotional sound from the Velvet Underground, leader Stuart Staples pointedly lacks Lou Reed’s self-conscious sense of the melodramatic, and they don’t sound anything like the various drone bands currently seen as carrying on the Velvet’s good works. What Tindersticks do do is perform deeply cinematic, heavily emotional, and very adult rock music. The sound–as dependent on ghostly, Eno-ish synthesizers and expressive violin and reeds as guitar and drums–is extremely unmodern and alluringly atmospheric, at times achieving a sense of mood and place as potent as, say, the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions or the Vulgar Boatmen’s You and Your Sister. Staples has a deep basso that gets compared a lot to Nick Cave’s and Jim Morrison’s, but he’s neither a cartoon like Cave nor a numskull like Morrison; when he sings, delicately and emotionally, “Where does your blood go?” you’re transported, plain and simple. The band ride into town atop a wave of typical British press hysteria led by Melody Maker declaring their debut, Tindersticks, 1993’s album of the year. The album is intimidatingly and exhaustingly long–21 tracks, close to 80 minutes–and Tindersticks’ musical excursions don’t always seem to get you anywhere; but I’ll also note that the fervid Brit press isn’t always wrong, and admit that after weeks of listening I still can’t warrant that it wasn’t me who got lost on the way. This is their first performance in Chicago. Thursday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Gullick.