Sharp Tongues – live review

The Sharp Tongues
Berwick Village Hall, Sussex
Friday, May 13 2011.

If bloody Gaga serves any purpose at all it is to remind us how great the past was. Her act is so ridiculously in debt to Ms Ciccone, Ms Styrene and the collective Ms Plasmatics, that she is practically a tribute singer – though lacking the dignity and class even of some of the copyists earning a cuckoo’s crust out there in Wetherspoons-land. Bet she’s gutted that the new Blondie single is so damn good…

Buy into her nonsense if you will, but stay aware that there remains a more honest way to celebrate music’s better moments. Something the 100 or so people who filed into this countryside village hall on a sunny Friday early evening are now well aware of, props to The Sharp Tongues.

Their brutally intricate-yet-simple live set pinches great bits of great music from great times, in a way that only the hungriest of music freaks are able to do.

Singer Julia’s strong Canadian pipes will elicit comparisons to The Breeders, Throwing Muses et al, and that will be right and just: though it soon becomes obvious that she actually draws from a deeper well than this. Her guitar work is no-nonsense, yet fiddly and precise; in a Television-stylee perhaps. One imagines there’s a lot of rehearsing going on between gigs, a lot of poring over individual notes and chords. But when you think it might be getting a bit Richard Hell East-Coast art school, there’s a tattooed twin levelling agent in the shape of the Tidy Brothers ryhthm section – Paul (bass) and Stewart (drums) – to bring the whole thing back down to Roxy 1977-type basics.

By stripping the whole circus down to the riffs, rhythms and pauses that count (because, as the Slits taught us some years ago, silence is a rhythm too), The Sharp Tongues reveal themselves as tasteful collectors of the powerful sounds that have fluttered righteous hearts through the last three decades of the 20th Century.

And so the listener excavates what sounds very much like a Southern Death Cult riff in ‘Plan B’, a radical and relentless ride through the Killing Joke formula (though presented very, very differently) on ‘Stay Out’, and something akin to second Damned album/MC5 antics on ‘Hex On Me’.

Lots to think about, in other words, and (thanks largely to the twins’ between-song hollers (“Ready bro?” “Why not bro!” etc) an infectious laugh too.

As the Sharp Tongues continue to veer outside of their London homes to get in amongst it in toiletland, they will no double be dissected further by any inquiring mind that goes to see them. Pick away, friends… unlike the undeserving talking point of the day, there’s real substance to be enjoyed here.

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