A solo album from Stuart Staples is a curious beast. Or should I say, Stuart ‘A’ Staples. It sounds like Tindersticks with some bits taken out, which is precisely what it is, as he is helped out here by various members of Tindersticks. So not a major departure then, upon release in 2005.
It’s not till the second track (the first is a rather slight instrumental) Marseilles Sunshine, where we hear the lugubrious vocals of Staples. It’s a yearning plea of a song, probably one of the most fully realised here featuring a great bit of guitar in the bridge from Neil Fraser and glockenspiel from David Boulter.
Friday Night is a reasonably sparse track, with light percussion and mainly organ, giving Staples’ vocals great room to breathe and own the song. It’s a great vocal performance, he sings with real sensitivity here.
Many of the other tracks are mere sketches, a lilting refrain repeated ad nauseum (Shame On You, Dark Days) and don’t quite work. It’s hard not to get the feeling that something is missing.
Towards the end there are some more fleshed-out songs, which are very much in the vein of Tindersticks. People Fall Down sounds wonderfully downtrodden. Again the arrangements are not particularly busy, giving space to the vocals. There’s some atmospheric saxophone towards the end, not an instrument I’m particularly fond of, but it works perfectly here.
She Don’t Have To Be Good To Me sounds like the sun has broken through the clouds, clearing the rain away using a nice horn section midway through. It’s relaxed and sounds like a dry run for his follow solo album, Leaving Songs. Final track I’ve Come a Long Way draws a nice full stop at the end of the album, aided by more horns.
It’s an interesting curio, not Stuart Staples strongest bunch of songs, though he sings them very well for the most part.
Ideal circumstances to listen: As ever with Tindersticks-related material, walking along a cobble-stoned alleyway on a rainy, grimy night in late autumn (October/November). Perhaps in a small town in France.