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Two Tongues – Two Tongues

on July 19, 2009, 12:00pm
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The world of emo music breeds strong allegiances. You might listen to a lot of bands, but one name and one name only is tattooed on your heart: you’re a Saves the Day fan or a Dashboard die-hard or a Brand New fanboy first and foremost. Consequently, it was with some trepidation that this committed Saves the Day disciple first pressed play on Two Tongues’ self-titled debut after months of careful avoidance.

Two Tongues is a side project combining the vocal and guitar talents of Saves the Day frontman Chris Conley and bassist David Soloway with those of Say Anything’s Max Bemis and drummer Coby Linder. The two bands toured together in 2007 (and I have the ticket stub in my wallet to prove it), and it’s clear that Conley and Bemis formed a strong bond. To fans of either group, this partnership poses something of a difficulty: listen on the grounds that your idol contributed to the album, or avoid it because any combination must be a dilution of their collective talents? When I heard that Conley was sharing vocal duties with Bemis, the release got bumped to my “ehh” pile in a hurry.

But that would have been cheating both Two Tongues and myself. Their combined musical effort is definitely different but also inspiring. The band employs a style that fans of either group will find comfortable while using each member’s individual talents to their best advantage. Bemis’s freshly earnest vocals provide a clean, wide swath of punk angst, onto which Conley adds his uniquely nasal twist in all of its full, whiny glory. The result is something larger than either of them alone. When the two frontmen sing in turns on “If I Could Make You Do Things”, the effect gives a movingly earnest quality to a song that could have seemed overwrought in less competent hands.

In terms of rhythm and subject matter, the bands continue to meet in the middle. Two Tongues avoids both the harsh anger of Say Anything and the rampant dismembered body parts of Saves the Day. The album focuses on the blossoming friendship between Conley and Bemis, although Bemis points out on the band’s Myspace page that the songs “could be about any relationship”. The point seems to be more about finding a connection with a kindred soul, regardless of gender.

Particularly striking is “Interlude”, a track supplied by Sherri DuPree of Eisley, who also happens to be married to Bemis. By that track, the fourth, the listener has grown accustomed to Bemis and Conley’s alternating style; DuPree’s higher voice adds an unexpected layer that still fits quite easily into the overall musical idea. The brief song, which can only be described as smooth, rises and falls with each line, and leads so neatly into the next track, “Tremors”, that it’s easy to mistake them for the same song. “Tremors” continues the rhythmic rise-and-fall pattern, with Bemis and Conley again alternating verses to great effect.

I need you here with me

I need you just to see me

I need you here with me

But it is only a dream to me

While many of the other tracks are catchy, none of them quite achieve this same transcendence. Notably enjoyable are “Wowee Zowee” and “Back Against the Wall”, and the album ends on a pleasantly bouncy cover of Ween’s “Even If You Don’t”.

The intertwining of two distinctive voices is definitely the strongest feature of this album. While it’s hard to say how wide a fan base Two Tongues might have in its own right, for anyone into the genre encompassed by Say Anything and Saves the Day, this is a must-listen. This is the ultimate in collaboration: each man combining the best pieces of his style to form something that would never be possible alone. As Soloway puts it in their Myspace video, it’s “edgier music than a lot of music Saves the Day or Say Anything have done recently.” Should they continue their pairing, I won’t hesitate to check out what these great minds come up with in the future.

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