Syracuse, New York’s Tongue may not be a band you’ve heard of. Their brief existence only lasted through 1992-1994 and through those years they’ve only released a pair of singles. Thankfully, Jigsaw Records has released a 13-track collection compiling all of the band’s material. If you’re a fan of grungy garage rock, noise pop and shoegaze from the 90’s then this just might be right up your alley. Too Much Cosmo’s Coffee: The Complete Recordings compiles both of their singles along with a few more previously unreleased songs. This record is a time capsule that captures the indie rock of its time. The band uses soaring guitar riffs, gritty textures and familiar grunge progressions, but the kicker that rounds out their sound is the gentle vocals of Deborah Warfield, whose high-pitched timbre cuts through all the guitar sludge and provides a great contrast that elevates their songs.
The record opens with “That Ceiling”, where waves of crunching guitars blare freely, reminiscent of the grungy 90’s underground. It’s contrast with Warfield’s vocals creates a trippy carousel of sound that swirls in between soft breaths and heavy distortion. “Opaque” follows with shoegaze delicacy. This song is more in line with modern psychedelia and space rock with its odd atonal textures and twisting chord progressions. Both tracks were part of the band’s initial release via their own Mason Ring Records label and Orgasm Records respectively.
In this compilation of 13 tracks that clocks in 44 minutes we see a lot of moments where the band stretches out their guitar prowess and delves into crazier experiments. “Timber Hat” crashes in with nonstop energy and relentless strumming. The guitars are pit against each other into a nonstop battle of riffs and tremolo. Somehow still managing to make it sound fun and coherent, like a free-jazz-but-with-shoegaze session. This formula is repeated again in tracks like “What It Says”, where the urgent tempo of the track doesn’t stop the riffs from wandering off into multiple dips and valleys. “Perfectly” is plagued with atonal riffs but the groove from the bass and drums provide a strong consistent pulse.
This to me is the highlight of Tongue and other groups that dive into the noisy and uptempo side of shoegaze. Although it feels like the guitars are pulling at each other all the time, the overall result still remains pleasing, oftentimes even catchy. Tongue might have had a short-lived career, but what they left behind is worthy of a lot more ears. You can check out Too Much Cosmo’s Coffee: The Complete Recordings via Jigsaw Records and other streaming services.