Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tindersticks and Martin Wallace- a marriage made in heaven

Tindersticks are a band that create their own brand of musty romance. Their sound and aesthetic evokes moody, broody images of dusty suits, mouths tasting of whiskey, eroded romance, cigarettes in glass ashtrays with the ash burned down to the filter, fading yet undying love and suited and booted inner city boredom.

Their sounds is sweeping and mood driven, perfect soundtrack music, and indeed its when the music is captured by the unique vision of Martin Wallace that the band really make their truest artistic statement, not only making something that looks and sounds beautiful, but (in two films) something that questions the very nature of love itself.

Take the film for the 1999 single Can We Start Again?, which sees the members of the band in a cinema, not to see a movie, but snatches of memories of past loves. Whats fascinating, is that it completely goes against the Hollywood cliche of lost love. Picture in your mind a retrospective love montage in a modern movie, and what do you see? Shared ice creams? Holding hands on a beach? Shopping in a second hand book store?

Even if these things have happened to you in your relationships, i guarantee these are not the things you remember. In the film, you see tiny, almost insignificant moments of a love affair. The way a girl empties a laundrette washing machine, the way she reaches for something in a super market, the way she sips her drink, adjusts her top, chews her gum, flicks her hair. Her earring and her shoes. Things that can go almost unnoticed until they are not there anymore. This and the next film argues that love is something that is not only understood, but also only properly appreciated retrospectively. Its not the big things you miss, its the small things you took for granted.

The second film is for the 1995 single Travelling Light. Now, it could be argued that this is a film about two normal people going about their every day business. But the colour and tone of the film combined with the music and its lyrical content ("I’ve been looking through some of them old pictures" , "Do you remember, how much you loved me?") suggest an affair that has past, almost a ghost of a relationship. Again, a relationship in all its minutia are laid bare.

We see the couple share touching moments, sharing a bathroom and adjusting each others clothes before a night out and having a pub conversation.

We also see the boring bits. The man shaves, the girl hangs up the washing. We see them walking the dog, riding the bus, ironing. We also see see a motif returning from the first film, the couple shopping. This, i think is the crux of the two movies and the point im trying to make about them. Whatever reason we are left alone, the mind is preaware and ready to deal with things like sleeping, eating alone etc. Its when you find yourself buying toilet paper just for yourself, that when it really hits home that you are alone.

I read a review of a DVD that contains some of Wallaces Tindersticks films, and someone noted the fact that Wallaces work "captures the little sparkle of magic and romance that can occur between two ordinary people". Which to me misses the point.

We are ALL ordinary people, and those of lucky enough to have someone to share our lives with should find the sparkle of magic in not only the candle lit dinners and expensive gifts but also in buying bog roll together. Because you never know when you might have to buy it on your own.


  1. Just to register the statement that this post is completely beautiful and probably true.

  2. I like this post too, but the Can We Start Again clip was actually directed by Claire Denis, not Wallace.

  3. Suddenly realised "Can We..." appears on the Wallace/ Bareback DVD. So I was wrong in my 1st message. Still, I do remember the French media referring to that clip as a "Claire Denis promo video" so I'm a bit puzzled here.

    Anyway, sorry about the first message.