Two Tongues – [Album]

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sometimes, even when a moment or event seems predestined to pass, it's still surprising because it plays out exactly as expected and without a single thing out of place. Two Tongues' self-titled debut is the epitome of that kind of moment; after first convening in 2006 to cover Bob Dylan's “The Man In Me” for the Paupers, Peasants, Princes & Kings tribute compilation, Max Bemis, Coby Linder (both of emotionally articulate gurus Say Anything) and Chris Conley (from Saves The Day) discovered that while their primary bands may have all begun to branch into more experimental rock, punk and power pop musical extensions, they still had some emo demons that needed to exorcising. With guitarist Dave Soloway (also of Saves The Day) picking up a bass to round out Two Tongues' lineup, the project continued beyond its enthusiastic but derivative beginnings onto terrain that, as the band's debut full-length attests, is familiar and well-worn by everyone involved but doesn't come off sounding like a mawkish re-enactment of old glories.

From the first concussive caress of “Crowd,” all of the excitement from when the second wave of emo rock really hit (when Weezer started drawing comparisons to The Beach Boys regularly and Saves The Day caused high school girls to look at the guy in their fourth period art class with the longing once reserved for the star quarterback) comes rushing back and Two Tongues draws listeners in with the finest form of “can you feel me burn” vocals and driving-but-cathartic rhythms and, from there, listeners are held tightly by the combination of Bemis' and Conley's vocal interplay and glossy but sticky-sweet and yearning timbres wrenched from the growling guitars and cascading drums that dominate the album. At no point is there really a significant instrumental shift or movement outside of the tightly wound and caustic aggro-balladry that this band's members first perfected in the early running of their “other” bands but, as “Dead Lizard” gives way to “Interlude” gives way to “Tremors” gives way to “Silly Game” and the lines between songs get blurry. As listeners are happily swept through though, it does become apparent that the members of Two Tongues did learn a few things during their tenures in other groups; nothing here is so stop-and-start as the stereotypical emo pop record (where you usually can't miss the breaks between songs) and while the individual tracks here are good, they make an even better record combined.

That sort of fluidity is pretty revelatory considering the normal stylistic constraints of an emo record (where the songs are typically short and very much of a pop structure in that each one is vacuum-sealed and individually recognizable from the rest) but, right at the close of the album, Two Tongues makes it clear without saying so that while it is certainly flavored that way, the album is a much more mature (read: adventurous) affair from the norm. At the end of the album, the band goes back to its roots with a distinctly emo rendition of Ween's “Even If You Don't” and forevermore set themselves apart by choosing an act (again) that has never claimed to have a strong 'Tween audience like emo does and so pushes the sound into a completely different age demographic. While the structures and style that the band employs here are still noticeably rooted in emo rock orthodoxy (dramatic melodic interpretations, stark production, heavy-handed and bare-bones instrumental performances), the song choice also betrays a slightly broader appreciation of other musical styles that emo that emo doesn't typically convey. That moment – when the band looks outward to incorporate the unexpected but makes it work and instantly shows a little more age and discipline at the same time – is when the band will draw a different sort of curiosity in those that find it. Two Tongues shows the skeptical that there can be life after emo; it is the work of proud teenage dirtbags no more.


Two Tongues myspace


Two Tongues' self-titled debut is out now and available at Amazon .

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