Isa & the Filthy Tongues – Addiction


Isa And The Filthy Tongues - Addiction

Scottish bands don’t, as a rule, come from Edinburgh.  Edinburgh is mostly perceived as too respectable, too reserved, too culturally elitist to produce much in the way of amplified rhythmic sound with perhaps adult lyrical content. Scottish rock bands are mostly from Glasgow, that grubby corner of Caledonia that is forever the south Bronx before Guiliani gentrified/demolished it. Edinburgh does on occasion produce stars of its own though, such as Shirley Manson, frontwoman of Garbage, whose own career began in a little remembered (though reverently by those who do remember) Edinburgh band called Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, whose main songwriter Martin Metcalfe has taken several years over preparing the 15 tracks presented on Addiction.

‘Isa’ herself is Stacey Chavis, whose transatlantic vowels reveal her as a native not of Stenhouse but of Portland, Oregon, and it’s tempting to regard Isa & the Filthy Tongues as  somehow Garbage in reverse. A Scots band fronted by an American female vocalist; there is also an air of thwarted genius in the atmosphere around the band itself. Goodbye Mr Mackenzie are somehow the best example of ‘nearly men’ the 80s Scots music scene ever produced, and their guitarist John Duncan attended the same school as I did. I wondered then if Big John (he was a quite large bloke with a huge mass of spiky bleached hair, more out of place than you’d think in late 70s north Lanarkshire) was happier selling records in the old Listen store on Union Street than he ever was making them.

Past aside, Isa & the Filthy Tongues are seemingly favourites for film soundtracking, with songs appearing in current films such as ‘New Town Killers’ and ‘Spread’. The combination of breathy femme vocal and noirish guitar riffs is, I need to say, a compelling one, although Stacey Chavis’ voice is sometimes swamped by Metcalfe’s reverberating Gretsch, and no wonder, as given the budget his previous incarnation lacked, Isa & the Filthy Tongues can explore some personal high points of the preceding 3 decades with alacrity.  So, for any musical pedant there are influences a plenty to spot and perhaps savour, including The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Pretenders, Hank Marvin and most tellingly, even more obscure mid 80s Edinburgh popsters The Shop Assistants. But Addiction is more than capable of standing on its own merits, and makes for a coolly measured if not chilly reappraisal of some well known styles, reassessed and regurgitated with more than a dash of élan. Isa & the Filthy Tongues are, at their core, a flashy bunch of unashamed glam poseurs, and the one band they don’t sound very much like are Garbage.

Was it really exactly a decade ago that I penned my first printed music review? Garbage, plus support, in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, a concert held to celebrate the opening of the Scottish parliament, and my comment re: the probably apt choice of headline act never actually made it into print. They were needed though, in those far off and overcast late 90s, with only it seemed Placebo for company as the airwaves were consumed by what seemed like acres of dull club music that no-one could really dance to. Ten years later, we still need more from Martin Metcalfe, and he and his cohorts are in a position to more than oblige.