Edinburgh-based quartet Isa and the Filthy Tongues’ 2006 debut album, ‘Addiction’ is a surreal combination of offbeat humour and sinister menace

The Filthy Tongues were born out of the remnants of another Edinburgh band, late 80s and early 90s post-punk group, Goodbye Mr MacKenzie, who recorded four albums, ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ (1988), ‘Hammer and Tongs’ (1991), ‘Five’ (1993), and ‘The Glory Hole’ (1995), but are now best known for being the first group of Garbage’s Shirley Manson. Manson was the keyboardist and backing vocalist in “The Mackenzies”, leaving main vocals to Martin Metcalfe, and only finally moving to centre stage to duet with him on ‘Normal Boy’, one of the tracks on ‘Five’.

Metcalfe (guitars) and Manson (vocals) played together as well in another group, Angelfish, with Goodbye Mr MacKenzie’s bassist Fin Wilson and drummer Derek Kelly. Angelfish recorded a self-titled album in 1994, which was produced by the Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, and had brief success on MTV, before Manson departed for Garbage.

Working with a female singer, however, convinced Metcalfe that this was the direction he wanted to go in the future. When he formed the Filthy Tongues in 2005 with Wilson and Kelly after a long abstinence from music and Goodbye Mr MacKenzie had finally folded in early 1996, he handed over the bulk of the vocal duties to his girlfriend, Stacey Chavis.

Isa and the Filthy Tongues’ music is similar in nature to that of Goodbye Mr MacKenzie and Angelfish, being a strident and broodingly epic fusion of rock ‘n’ roll, surf music, and dark punk and psychedelic rhythms. While another ballsy singer, poignant at one moment, exultantly celebratory of her womanhood at another and then ice-cold and genuinely scary the next, Chavis, is, however, no Manson clone. A Portland, Oregon-born refugee who came to Scotland “to escape George Bush’s America”, her Pacific North West drawl has a distinct character and vibrancy of its own.

“I go out on Saturday night and I wake up on Sunday morning and I repent for my sins,” Chavis says in a voiceover at the beginning of second track ‘She Said Yeah’, before then lavishly describing, against a backdrop of Metcalfe and Wilson’s swooping guitars and Kelly’s heavy, crackling drum beats, the brief closing time liaison in the back of a car between a couple who have just met in a bar.

“Your time has come and gone,” she spits at a domineering and instantly ex-boyfriend in the chorus of ‘I’ll Do What I Want’, which, despite some chiming, scatty guitar work from Metcalfe, is underpinned with a sense of malevolence by the stark, brooding sounds of the rhythm section. Another hapless fool is similarly dispatched on the jangling rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Education’. “How did you work that out? Oh, you listen to other people, d’ya? That’s interesting,” she leers at him before moving in for the kill after finding out that he has bad mouthed her for being American. As the tune briskly erupts up a gear, in a jubilant anti-racist, feminist diatribe Chavis finishes by dedicating the song to “anyone who has ever been bitched about when they were really doing their best in their circumstances.”

As the album moves into its second half, an off-the-wall and black humour, only hinted at in these earlier songs, becomes more prevalent. On the brief title track, the “Saturday night” monologue of ‘She Said Yeah’ is reprised, but this time is punctured with gleeful childish yelps. The final track,‘Ginger Beer’, which disturbingly follows ‘How Many Days?’, an angst-torn punk ballad (“How many days can I live with the up and downs of all the fear in me? How many days can I worry about the end?”) after a brief break, matches cheesy, chugging beats with more bizarre yelps.

The track which perhaps captures the surrealism of the album best is ‘Dreamcatcher’, which comes two from the end and in which a numbed-sounding Chavis, against a sultry backdrop of distorted guitars and leaden drums, recounts her dreams. Some are frightening and find her frail and vulnerable (“Mostly I’m dreaming you’re having an affair/or caring about someone else more than me”); others are more peculiar and, deadpan told, dryly, darkly funny (“You flew off in your aeroplane to a party/You said Prince was there/I was pissed off but you reminded me that I was busy that day/I was still pissed off at you though/I never even knew you had an aeroplane”).

‘Addiction’ is like the landscape to a David Lynch film of the quality of ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘Wild at Heart’ or even ‘Twin Peaks’, the fears and hopes and situations it portrays on the surface relatively ordinary, but becoming increasingly deranged and disturbing and blacker-than-black hilarious at every turn. It is initially a confusing, often disorientating listen, but, like Stacey Chavis’ dreams, haunting and oddly compelling. Re-released on Circular Records in a special edition with an extra CD of remixes and previously unreleased tracks, this reissue sets the way and hopefully some of the tone for Isa and the Filthy Tongues’ second album, ‘Dark Highway’, which will come out later this year.











Related Links:


http://www.tallulahrendall.com/
https://twitter.com/tallulahrendall
https://www.facebook.com/tallulahrendall


Commenting On: Addiction - Isa and the Filthy Tongues








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last