Teeth & Tongue have today released their incredible new album Give Up On Your Health via Dot Dash / Remote Control in Australia and Dot Dash / Captured Tracks in North America.
With Teeth & Tongue’s fourth album, Give Up on Your Health, Jess Cornelius has crafted kitchen-sink dramas and relationship vignettes that follow a lineage from Ken Loach through Jarvis Cocker. As the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based songwriter explains, “In the past I’ve written personal material, but this album is more about observation. I was reading essays by [American poet] Eileen Myles and she has this stream-of-consciousness style, no filter.”
Give Up on Your Health had its genesis in one rogue song. ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ was originally recorded as an experimental track with a driving, arpeggiated synth sound, drawing on ’70s electronica. So on the heels of a breakup, Cornelius retired to remote Iceland on a three-month Nes Artist Residency, which produced the heartbreaking ‘Small Towns’.
The rest of the album was written in Melbourne, where Cornelius brought the material to the band: guitarist Marc Regueiro-McKelvie, bassist Damian Sullivan and drummer James Harvey. The band teamed up with co-producer Haima Marriott (Banoffee, Architecture in Helsinki), whose knowledge of vintage synths came in handy when referencing Giorgio Moroder and Daft Punk. Vocally, it’s intriguing, with Cornelius alternating between being warm and gentle, and cool and detached – such as with the Garbo-like haughtiness on ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’.
“There’s this idea of reaching a level – whether it be success in your career, or your health, or your image – and then you’re supposed to stay on form,” she explains. When coupled with the constant compromises that come with releasing music, that pressure took its toll. “You have all these expectations and no one else can fully see what you’re trying to do. The closer you get, the harder it is. I was being careless with my own sanity.”
Even in her darkest hour, Cornelius can’t help but rule with a pop aesthetic. It’s most apparent in the urgent ‘When We Met’ (with our breathless protagonist “messed up in the head” and the love interest already taken), but also in first single ‘Dianne’ – a glam-stomping answer to Blondie’s ‘Denis’, best sung into a hairbrush in front of the bedroom mirror (although scratch the surface and the lyrics aren’t as peppy as they seem).