The music industry is littered with people who have nothing to say, saying it loudly.
Hordes of empty vessels making noises that serve only to drown out the people who do have something to say. Distraction pieces. Distraction faeces. This is music that is designed to repeat, repeat, repeat, noises that have already been made. All the right notes, played in the right order. B-O-R-I-N-G. Lots of people like the familiar, if I have to be honest (although I don’t see why I should be), then I will confess, under duress, to also enjoying things that remind me of other things. But I only want to be reminded. I want a hint, the scent, a trace, of things I know and love. Then I want those things to be almost erased by the artist using, utilising, them in order to create something, whisper it, new.
Standing in the playground of Balwearie High School in 1988, my face ruined by acne, I find myself confronted by a girl two years below me. She is staring at my face. I don’t know her. At first her face is curious, as if she doesn’t quite understand what she is looking at, and then she grins. The laughter that follows is cruel but what comes next is worse. “PIZZA PUS - PIZZA PUS” she yells, over and over again. At first I try to laugh it off, exhibiting a faux bravado. I don’t feel brave. I feel awful, humiliated and afraid. I am fifteen, she is twelve, I am, to all intents and purposes, a man and she is a child. The power lies only in one place, and it isn’t with me. I try to walk away, but she follows me, “PIZZA PUS - PIZZA PUS”. I try to think of something witty to say, try to find the words that will make her stop, something cutting. There are no words. I am tongue tied.
That wasn’t the first time.
It won’t be the last time.
I have a feeling that Gemma Cullingford knows what it means to have things to say, but to be incapable of saying them. Dry mouth. Cold sweat. Palpitations. Hands shaking. Tongue tied. She has the words, I have no reason to doubt her erudition. She has the smarts. But there have been times, I am sure, when the words themselves have hidden under her tongue and refused to make themselves heard. Tongue tied.
She has stood in the shadows, waited for the light, weary of her present, weary of her fight…heard dark waves murmur. But she has also now found the way to say the things she needs to say, she has given voice to her own voiceless self. “Tongue Tied” is a(nother) collection of retro-futurist, electro-soul, pop ’n’ roll, bedroom disco anthems. Songs for the heartbreak, songs for the heartbroken, songs to help piece together the shards of your broken self. These are deeply personal and revelatory songs, and as with all truly personal things, they are universal. Anyone who has, who had, a heart, will hear the sound of their own lives on, and in, these songs.
Cullingford is something more than a singer, something separate from a songwriter, something more than a musician. To my mind she is a sculptor. Taking raw, base, elements and forming them into something else, something more than they were. These songs are the musical equivalent of Tracey Emin’s bed, of Hirst’s shark…playful, revelatory, provocative and, to the right eyes and ears, fun. She has no interest in being a tribute act, the influences are background noise, she is her own self. Art and artist.
Who wouldn’t want that in their life?
Only a fool.
'Tongue Tied' is released this Friday, the 2nd of September.