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The Filthy Tongues

The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
Four stars

The mini spotlight attached to Martin Metcalfe’s microphone lights up the Filthy Tongues’ vocalist’s face with a celestial glow that casts even more shadows on an otherwise black-swathed stage. This gives the now annual festive appearance by Metcalfe and co the stylistic demeanour of a demon-purging hellfire club. The scene set, Metcalfe and fellow core members, bassist Fin Wilson and drummer Derek Kelly, proceed to reclaim their neglected past with 1980s/90s shoulda-beens Goodbye Mr Mackenzie as much as keeping a gimlet eye on the future. The opening bump and grind of Come on Home from their second album, last year’s Back to Hell, is followed by late-period Mackenzies number, Crewcut. This fits seamlessly with the gothic noir of Leper Town and Carlos The Jackal that follow.

Augmented by guitarist Alex Shedlock and percussionist Asim Rasool, this five-piece incarnation of The Filthy Tongues unleash barrages of swamp-deep thunder wielded like weapons behind Metcalfe’s incantations. Joined by cellist Su A Lee, they reveal their true colours even more on Violent Sorrow and the dervish-like jig of The Ghost of Rab McVie. Accompanied by the painted projections of artist Maria Rud and with the Tongues casting themselves as sooth-saying outlaws, Metcalfe’s short stories dig deep into the underbelly of Edinburgh mythologies ancient and modern.

The theme continues with the white-light funk of Back to Hell’s title track and its predecessor Jacob’s Ladder, with Metcalfe’s hands clasped in diabolic prayer before dedicating Mother’s Got A Knife to Melania Trump. Closing the main set with Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s epic Goodwill City, The Filthy Tongues are joined for the encore by guest star and long-term Rezillos front-woman Fay Fife. Her other band, The Countess of Fife, had already played a set of deep-fried alt country, aided on one song by Metcalfe. Fife plays theremin on the strung-out dirge of long-lost Mackenzies B-side Friday’s Child before closing with the panoramic gallop of Nae Tongues. With Metcalfe and Fife sparring as if casting spells on each other, it looks as if both have been redeemed at last.

The Herald, December 31st 2018
Ends


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