My life has given me odd opportunities to witness the stuff of nightmares. Let's just say that I: know more about murderers than normal people; am horror-stricken by the new Claire Denis movie; can assure you, absolutely, that the Tindersticks' soundtrack for Trouble Every Day
have captured the sound in your head that accompanies the scenes of violent death.
Since the French press have declared the theme of Trouble Every Day to be vampirisme, you can imagine how crucial capturing that internal soundtrack would be for the Tindersticks. In a nutshell, the story is this: a doctor conducting odd and subsequently discredited research gives a drug to his wife, Coré, and an American man, Shane Brown, that makes them literally want to eat their lovers alive during sex. As Shane Brown goes to Paris with his new wife on their honeymoon, Coré escapes the house the doctor has kept her locked up in after some very sorry housebreakers let her out. Needless to say, Shane and Coré have a date with destiny -- the kind that requires dinner napkins but makes the condoms pointless. And this is the movie the Tindersticks, masters of romantic melancholy, had to score.
If it seems out of their league, your instinct would be right -- there's nothing very romantic about cannibalism -- until you realise that the most intense love affairs involve a cannibalism of the self. The lover becomes consumed by desire and the (thoughts of) the love object, and maybe that's what Denis planned. The Tindersticks seem to have found enough affinity with her subject, in any case, to have captured the extremity of feeling so completely in sound. From the "Opening Titles", though, with the heavy pizzicato on violins and standing bass, heavy pedaled piano keys, and the darkest tones Stuart Staples can muster, the hair on the back of your neck is permanently raised. The opening title song is the only track with lyrics, and Staples' warning, "There's trouble every day," is helpful, but not necessary. Violins can perfectly encompass the sound of women weeping, and Dickon Hinchliffe's expert orchestral arrangements, particularly of the cello and violin, fill the album with ominous portent. "Maid Theme" includes a slowly-shaken maraca that sounds like clock ticking (which leads to questions of: "What are we waiting for?") and Fiona Hibbert's expertly fingered harp, filling the listener with dread and sadness. The strings in "Coré on Stairs/Love Theme" rise to ever higher tones, ending in a lofty crescendo that descends only in the following "Killing Theme". The juxtaposition of these two extremes only succeeds in making the shades of "Killing Theme" much darker. The whole piece -- because the album has to be viewed as a whole -- leaves the listener feeling as drained as if he/she'd been visited by Coré or Shane.
As spectacularly successful as the Tindersticks have been in their tribute to the horror of Trouble Every Day, I'm hoping for a lighter confection from their next collaboration with Denis -- something more along the lines of Nenette et Boni. It's got to be the world's oddest compliment when I say that this disc made me both nauseous and weepy, but it did, and that is high praise, given their objectives (depict the movie in sound). Bring your hanky and be prepared: this album will eat you alive.