Tindersticks - Distractions
Feb 19, 2021
59
an album that consists of pretty solid ideas, but doesn't really flesh them out and thus falls flat

“Man Alone” could be described as a slowly growing sensory overload. it’s the subtly present blend of an underground slow rave and a poetry reading.
the lyrics “falling into this ceiling / falling into this life” are mixed with the sound of a thunderstorm and a heavy downpour, while there’s just a single bass note repeated
underneath and all over the danceable beat. the title & lyrics suggest a darker theme along with what I would call a thread of anxiety running through it. you know, like morrissey going home from the club and crying with an underlying death wish? yeah, something along these tracks of thought. there’s a certain woozyness, and at the same time, a manic feel to this song.
the texture changes quite subtly at times, but that makes all the changes more perceivable and you feel the mood ever-so-slightly swift every time an instrument is added or removed. the song certainly doesn’t feel like 11 minutes and that’s a compliment
Man Alone sort of follows a ternary approach; but to put it poetically: from the rave to the gutters and back to the rave again

“I Imagine You” is a blend of breathy, sometimes barely audible vocals and spoken word, where all sentences are left hanging - if not in thought, then in feel
the instrumentation is truly minimal - it’s just a small melody plus high-pitched wails. all appropriate, considering that it is pretty much a wallowing song after all; speaking of longing and deep-rooted sadness

“A Man Needs A Maid” and “Lady with the Braid” are both groovier bites in the middle of the album, where the instrumentation and overall approach is a tad bolder. however, those two are also the songs on Distractions that don’t really strike me as the best part and don’t really make me want to return to them later - they’re just not memorable
despite that, I’d like to slide in a word in defence of the instrumental progression during the last few minutes of Lady with the Braid - mainly for the subtle latin tingles and for featuring the cello - the latter is something I could never be unattending towards

on “You’ll Have to Scream Louder”, we get on the dancefloor again and now it’s the part of the night where your speech is staring to slur a little. this song feels like a scenario in which you’re trying to escape into the middle of the crowd so you could put off reality and hearing harsh truths for a bit longer….but they still keep catching up with you. nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t still close your eyes and try to dance the night away
easter egg: how the song ever-so-slightly legitimately gets louder, as the title lyric is repeated and echoed

“Tue-Moi” consists of lines of french splattered over bare piano chords - usually a formula guaranteed to work. however, it doesn’t achieve its standout potential, but gets brushed over and forgotten instead

“The Bough Bends” starts off with some more spoken word. more than halfway through, we sink into a pool of distorted guitars and echoed backing vocals. it’s probably the noisiest part of the album, but I’d say it’s not a bad choice to try and wrap the listener into the haze of a musical experience as you’re ending an album. however, staying true to the stripped-down minimalist vibe, the noise gradually fades away... and there’s birdsong, like a promise of spring that has to arrive someday (Distractions kind of feels like a blue january album for me, so a touch of spring like this one is worth a smirk at least)

overall, Distractions is at times unfocused and not really that memorable as a whole, but the better glimpses deserve a listen nonetheless - the slight touch of joy division makes for the best pieces in this puzzle. however, the ideas presented in here are not truly expanded on and so it can be quite incoherent. you get the sense that it could be a pretty great album, but it doesn’t really live up to the expectations. in the end, I'm left thinking that they could've done so much more with the elements that are used in this album, but sadly, it doesn't actually tie itself together

the lean instrumentation means that everything unnecessary is stripped away. not sure I’m loving the fade-outs at the end of some of the tracks, especially in the case of "You’ll Have to Scream Louder", where I’d say that a blunt cut-off from the gradually achieved forte would be a more appropriate version - the fade-out is just absolutely anti-climatic. after quite a promising start with the first two tracks, the middle part of the album doesn't manage to keep up, but the last three tracks offer enough variety that I can get through it.
I’m definitely getting some vibes from 80s post-punk-influenced minimalistic styles. the album can at times perhaps be described as a dive into silences. Tindersticks show their signature way of crafting different layers in their musical output, but don't really hit the right spot this time. at first, it seems to sort of exist in its own isolated space, in a somewhat detached fashion, but listen once more and you could catch more of the emotionally vulnerable side of this album. that is, if you want to return to the whole album

standouts: Man Alone (Can’t Stop The Fadin’), You’ll Have to Scream Louder
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