Ever wonder what turned folks like Nick Cave into bad seeds? Tindersticks explain by example as they chronicle the surreal low life that has attracted well-dressed hedonists since the dawning of the smoky saloon. On the English band’s latest, Curtains, brooder Stuart Staples contemplates mortality, sleeps in rented rooms, cruises in and out of love as briskly as he does bars, and ducks into a bathroom to fuck—and that’s just the first two songs. He’s glamorizing existential despair, and his pursuits gain momentum on the incline of high style while his bandmates play a lavish strain of lounge music tailor-made to accompany tales of personal tragedy. The string arrangements echo late-period Nick Drake, but Staples’ low, rumbling, at times outlandish voice doesn’t demand sympathy as much as rapt attention. If anything, this band rewards voyeurs. So tonight, expect the men to be dressed fine and for Staples to reveal the humor lurking beneath his dark condition. Elliot Smith opens at 8:30 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1831 14th St. NW. $10. (202) 667-7960. (Brett Anderson)