Teeth & Tongue started off about 8 years ago as the solo project of an Australian woman named Jess Cornelius. Ms. Cornelius eventually recruited a band and now Teeth & Tongue is a four piece new wavish act releasing their fourth record. And this is a record steeped in the 1980s. I imagine Ms. Cornelius wearing a godawful amount of eyeshadow, which seemed to be very important in the 1980s.
Ms. Cornelius has a husky voice that is smoky, dark, and deep. Her vocal tone reminds me a lot of the early work of her countrywoman Tamaryn. This music is more synthy than the shoegazish pop Tamaryn pursues, but there is some similarity here. Both are women with expressive, deeper voices who make retro pop music.
The album starts off with the band channeling the dark dance pop of Cabaret Voltaire and Soft Cell on Give Up On Your Health. This song is all wavering synths and Harper's voice smoke and bouncing along.
On Do Harm her voice is even huskier here, and drummer James Harvey keeps a flat tapping and bassist Damian Sullivan plays a slowly throbbing beat. Keyboards sparkle and Marc Regueiro-McKelvie plays a chiming guitar riff, as Cornelius cuts lose on the choruses, really wailing. But the subject matter is odd -- it is her singing to her partners ex, about how she knows that he did awful things to her (things that are not explained) and then she expounds the doctrine that, no matter what you do in your life, you do harm. Even vegetarians kill thousands of bugs and bacteria and the like. One of my college professors wrote her thesis in Ethics on this notion, and so, as i listen to this song, i see Dr. Coers wearing a lot of eyeshadow and dancing spastically. Anyway, aside from sending me down an odd memory lane, this is a bouncy little song that moves along nicely and is really catchy.
The next song is a little slower. It is called Small Towns and features the repeated line, "Small towns, they fuck you up even more", leading me to conclude that the surreality of rural areas extends to Australia. And then Cornelius sings about needing to get better at being alone, giving the song a very dark undertone.
When We Met is a groovy tune, Regueiro-McKelvie's guitar driving along nicely as the drums tap an insistent beat. But on the chorus there are (synth?) strings in a staccato rhythm. The whole song is great, just shambling along with a booty shaking beat.
Cornelius sings the next song directly to some person, and since the title is Cupcake Revisited i guess that she has tried to explain things to this "Cupcake" before. The song is epic and glorious, the band pounding out a giant 1980s tune. This deserves a video with the band playing in a vast windswept wilderness, their big hair so shellacked it remains motionless as their clothes (all those shoulder pads!) blow in the wind. This song is a lot of fun.
Your Ghost Is the Hardest To Kill has a great title. Sadly, that is the best thing about it. The song just kind of meanders along with some odd rhythms that really never seem to jell. A shame.
Teeth & Tongue give us another really fun song in Dianne. This is driven by a whining guitar riff and soaring synths. This is a 1980s dance hit.
On Callback they step out from the synthpop briefly to let Regueiro-McKelvie step forward and play a slow guitar tune with lots of slow notes drawn out by the whammy bar. Cornelius sings deeply, soulfully, ending the song with the line "It's hard to be with you, but it's harder to be alone". Damn, lady, i am sorry that your guy is such a jerk!
Are You Satisfied? is soaring synths and stuttering drum machine, as Cornelius sings about her brother-in-law being killed by a land mine. I am not sure if she is singing directly from her life, or if she is trying to catch the cultural zeitgeist, but there is a heaviness to Cornelius's lyrics that the bouncy synthpop music helps to make palatable. What i mean is, if the music was not skittering beats and soaring synths, this song would be too depressing.
Teeth & Tongue channel Ladytron to wrap up the album with Turn, Turn, Turn. This is a burbling dance tune, the synths wavering and the guitar a little more out front and distorted than otherwise on the album. It's a pretty glorious close to the album.
I am impressed. I like what Cornelius and company are doing here. If you like dancey synthpop, then this is a good selection.