‘In These Dark Places’ is the final part of The Filthy Tongues’ trilogy based on the sombre history of their hometown, Edinburgh. A famously haunted place, it should be easy to paint it in a sinister hue without having to resort to mythologising. The trio accomplish this well in both arrangement and lyrics, but the best parts of the album are the more abstract musings that don’t lean quite so heavily on mood through whispered vocals and repetitive choruses (‘Gas Mask Blues’, ‘Nightwalker’).
The first single, ‘Hang My Head’, is an excellent outlier – its upbeat, straightforward rock has a triumphant edge that rarely appears above the morose parapet, with the album’s best guitar work and an uplifting bridge that would’ve fit U2 in their pomp. Not bad for a song ostensibly about despair.
‘Pandemic Pete’ is a surprisingly original take on the titular subject, with the band hoping for something more fiendish from a global lockdown (triffids, diamond dogs, zombies on the street etc.), but having to settle for your backward uncle spouting conspiracy theories on Facebook. The lyrics here paint a vivid picture that elsewhere gets lost amidst the reverb-heavy, snarling delivery that can feel like a Nick Cave parody at times. Second single, ‘Tricky Nicky’ falls foul of this, but at least it’s got a little wayward accordion thrown in to camp up the terror.
The title track is another that revels in gloominess, but starts to contextualise the dark places: they may be sinisterly seeping into us, but there is comfort in the familiarity. This idea is further cemented (in a metaphorically roundabout way) in the closer, ‘Kingdom of Gold’. This finale dials down the melodrama fittingly to end the trilogy on a reflective note.
These former members of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie have provided a love letter to Edinburgh in a way that those from there will understand best, by leaning into the darkness and owning it. It’s an understandable angle for a group with more than a little interest in the gothic, but unconfined by theme, the trio can now set their sights further afield. There’s a whole world of darkness out there just waiting for them.
‘In These Dark Places’ will be available on Blokshok on January 27th and via Last Night From Glasgow. The band play a Celtic Connections gig in Glasgow at Oran Mor on January 24th.