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Wire, March 2004, "The Boomerang"

The Boomerang
New reissues: rated on the rebound

Mid-80s Biting Tongues wigging out at London's Wag club and in the Feverhouse of their own imagination

Two releases complete LTM's programme of reissues of Howard Walmsley's pre 808 State group Biting Tongues' entire back catalogue. To think that this vibrant music was routinely dismissed as grim and joyless back in the 1980s. Although lacking the frenzy of their early era, when their vocalist Ken Hollings (now a Wire contributor) led the line with his bug-eyed blend of Mark Stewart and William Burroughs, the instrumental phase of the group represented by Compressed (LTM 2373 CD) is no less gripping a proposition. "Black Jesus", an allegedly popular selection on Manc jukeboxes in 1987, is an unlikely amalgam of proud Fela Kuti brass stylings, woozy dub, and a seven beat riff that is pure Magma. The starkly beautiful collage devised for their own noirish 1983 film Feverhouse stands up better than superficially similar soundtrack experiments generated by their Sheffield-based contemporaries like Hula and Cabaret Voltaire.

Much of The Tongues' cult reputation revolves around the idea that they presaged the electronica of Aphex Twin, Autechre et al, but it's the kinetic improvisational ingenuity of this material that resonates strongest today. In truth, the rather tepid electronic album Recharge (LTM 2376 CD), which The Tongues' Graham Massey was making just as 808 State's "Quadrastate" broke big in 1988, failed to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the radical Techno pioneered across the Pennines by the likes of Rob Gordon and Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk. Previously unreleased, it's an interesting historical addition to their ouevre, but significantly less vital than the work that preceded it. (KM - Keith Moline)