Melbourne based New Zealander, Jess Cornelius, has, under the moniker Teeth & Tongue, released three albums since 2008, all of which have received a rapturous reception from the music press and alternative radio.
Teeth & Tongue’s fourth album is about to be released, and two of its songs have been allowed out early to massage the ears of a privileged few in order to whip up expectation for the rest of the disc – one which will have the strangely pessimistic title, Give Up On Your Health – which will follow these two wayward musical siblings and be in discerning stores on Friday September 2.
The proud parent record company, Remote Control Records, are describing the album in their promotional material as a compendium of ‘kitchen-sink dramas and relationship vignettes’. They suggest it is a stylistic hybrid that lies somewhere between the filmic qualities of Ken Loach and the lyrical pre-occupations of Jarvis Cocker, so that description should certainly whet the curiousity of record buyers out there!
Whilst describing the album as less introspective than previous outings and more about observing the external world she inhabits and, in part, inspired by the ideas and stream-of-consciousness style of American poet, Eileen Myles; Cornelius is also proud to declare that there was ‘no filter’ applied to their content as she composed these songs.
‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, (no relation to The Byrds sixties classic) is the pick of the two preview tracks, as it seems more dense and allows for Cornelius’s voice to more readily affect the listener as the song builds. ‘Dianne’, the other new composition, is more immediately commercial – perhaps almost too jaunty in mood – but still easy to like and in its stylistic difference to ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, suggests that this album will contain a range of moods and tempos that will allow Cornelius’s inventiveness full rein.
The simple electro backing which adorns both of the two new tracks provides an uncluttered and hypnotic underpinning for Cornelius’ voice and insightful lyrics. Initially, these songs seem more slick and clinically performed when compared to some of those earlier songs that Teeth & Tongue are best known for, tunes such as ‘Unfamiliar Skirts’, ‘The Party Is You’ or ‘Good Man’, for instance; but you soon realise that this approach is intrinsic to the successfully seductive nature of these songs – and they reveal more subtleties with each listen.
What is clearly evident here, is that the many years of touring and supporting a diverse range of local and international artists has given Cornelius the confidence to try new approaches, hone her craft and deliver music that is sonically interesting and appealingly honest.
These songs confirm that Teeth & Tongue – currently a band and not, as it has been so often in the past, a Cornelius solo project – are a major talent and deserving of a much larger listening audience. Give Up On Your Health will definitely please fans of the last album, Grids, but will also attract those who like their music to be modern, melodic and thought-provoking.
Adelaide fans, unfortunately, will have to travel to the eastern seaboard if they wish to catch Cornelius with Teeth & Tongue performing live. The September / October dates announced to support the album’s release, disappointingly, only include shows in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne & Hobart. Bummer.
Give Up On Your Health will be released on Dot Dash/Remote Control in Australia on September 2, and on Dot Dash/Captured Tracks in North America.
Rating (so far): 4 stars
By Ken Grady