Melody Maker, 8th March 1982, "Tongue Sandwich"
Frank Worrall burns up the batteries with BITING TONGUES. Crashed out shots: Richard Roberts
OUR brows are just beginning to welcome an unwelcome cold sweat. Our faces cannot hide a common smile that is rooted in fear and tainted with worry on one side, accusation on the other. My relationship with my "subject matter" is about to be pushed to the limit.
I'm frightened of pressing down the "start" button. A couple of minutes ago it released a jumble of Mickey Mouse voices; obviously the batteries need replacing more often than I'd anticipated.
I press the button: we all look down at the cassette recorder. Articul ate , provocatively fresh words emerge one after another. We all smile at each other.
Later, in retrospect, I think how appropri ate it was that the tape should have gone berserk for five out of 90 minutes. I'd been searching vainly for that elusive epitome so that I could tell you everything there is to know about Biting Tongues in one crunching sentence.
Then I remembered that moment of eternity when I clumsily decided to play the end of the interview back to the Tongues. That was it! Biting Tongues are exactly what their name suggests: a chunk of unrelenting, poignantly stinging noise. And I mean that as a compliment.
Biting Tongues are a counter reaction to the ever-so-sloppy, well rehearsed drivel you receive if you ask most of todays "Top of the Pops" messiahs even the most simplistic, trite question. Biting Tongues are an ad Hoechst's wet dream: each supposition I put to them is tre ate d with the same qualified, perceptively intelligent spontaneous care.
“‘Dignity' and 'Sincerity' are two immensely important words to us," Howard
Walmsley informs me. "We despise the elements of modern music, such as lame bandwagon eering, which are so obviously insincere and, unfortunately, so obviously rife."
Howard, as saxophonist, is an integral corner of the intensely physical music that Biting Tongues are currently producing. I should tell you that BT are from Manchester but that might prejudice you into thinking that they're a "typical" Mancunian band.
ALTHOUGH there are many admirable groups now piercing the surface here, BT are quite, quite different from all of them. I might not be too dramatic or even too far from the truth to say that they're unique. I would point to their recently released cassette on New Hormones as proof.
Titled "Live It", the cassette provides a rigid insight into BT's flexible, improvisational attitude towards how they believe music should be bracing itself in the Eighties. The six tracks are drawn from two studio sessions and from recordings of continuous performances. They point a feasible escape from the swamp of insipidness that is generally jumbled together under the umbrella of "modern British music".
Biting Tongues also had an album released on Situation 2 Records, some 14 months ago. "It was called 'Don't Heal', but we won't hold it against you if you haven't heard of it," Howard says. "You're just one of the 63 million other people who also haven't.
"Seriously, though, it was difficult to put an album out and expect people who hadn't heard of us to pay a fiver for it," he adds. "But it was a terrific experience to record it. We played without stopping on both sides!"
"Live It" is available for only £1.75 so this time the Tongues could be justifiably upset if you don't bother to give them the remotest chance to win you over. "If people do obtain the cassette it will give them a chance to see what we were like before," Howard says. "That's because there is a natural progression from the album to the tape."
ALLOW me to bring in the other commentators: Capalula (voice), Graham Massey (guitars), Eddie Sherwood (drums) and Colin Seddon (bass). "We like jazz but we accept that it's an awkward word with various connotations," Colin states emphatically.
"I suppose from an improvisational point of view we could be seen as a 'jazz band' but with this new jazz fabrication going around we are wary of being labelled amongst your Pigbags and your Rip Rig & Panics."
Colin explains that BT as individuals enjoy a wide and varied taste in music.
"But that doesn't mean that we want to mirror them in our own music," he declares. "We don't have influences as such; we just rehearse and let it flow naturally. If you consider the end product similar to someone else's music that's your prerogative. Personally we don't think we sound like anyone else."
Graham surprises me by saying that the Tongues believe they are "better" on stage than on vinyl or cassette. "We're more immedi ate ," he points out. "And in our case immediacy and spontaneity are a double elixir that we thrive from."
Live the Tongues will surprise if not shock you with a sizzling commitment. "We like to improvise and compose the set as we go along," Eddie confides. "People shouldn't go to a gig and expect to hear a resume of the l ate st album. We expect our audience to work a bit: we want them to push us, to make us work to come up with something different every time they see us."
The Tongues admit that they will play all night "if there is an honest relationship between us and the audience." I asked Eddie if they would welcome a cult following. "We've already got one," he says. "He turns up at all our gigs and tells us how we're doing!"
AT present the Tongues find themselves split between London and Manchester because of Capalula's job in the capital. Does this make it more difficult for a unity, both in the music and on a personal level, to develop?
Howard: "No, it's actually better that we're not together all the time. You can be a lot more productive without a vocalist being present when you're creating the backbone to a song. We can get on with the music: he can get on with his lyrics. Later we can integr ate them and hopefully come with something that has both a musical and a lyrical edge."
Lyrically the Tongues paint stark documentary pictures of the decay and distress that many of our cities are currently experiencing. That might remind you of Joy Division, but whereas JD focused from an angst stance, BT tend to be much more distanced, more objectively commentating on what they see.
"We don't have a political image," Eddie tells me. "Too many people mix too many cocktails under a so-called 'political umbrella', and inevitably miss the point they set out to make."
He offers an entertaining example. "There's this chap who I know who's really into the CND campaign. Now I would have thought that the best way to succeed would be to subtly package their ideas and principles, with no gimmickry at all.
"But the other night when I went round to his house I found that he's got a CND knocker on his door! What kind of reflection can that have on the people involved in the movement?"
Howard interrupts. "As I see it the people who talk about politics and get involved in them are those who've got the time to sit back and do that. A bloke who works in a factory doesn't want to get home and start rapping about politics. He wants to read his paper and relax after a hard day's graft."
And how do BT fit into this idea?
"Like the man who works in the factory we strive to maintain high standards. We accept that we're not necessarily going to make a lot of money out of our music, but we'll never compromise our principles to do so.
"If we ever think we're cheating we'll say goodbye to each other," Eddie says with conviction. "And we won't need people like you to tell us it's all over."