6th October 2016
How exactly does one locate the work of The Eagertongue? The vehicle of Glaswegian artist Graham Macmillan-Mason, who describes his mode of work style as ‘spoken punk’, there’s nothing remotely Kate Tempest about the gritty poetics of The Eagertongue. There are no limp appropriations of hip-hop stylings for a start, no elongated vowels to intimate a sense of beat, no couplets, no doggerel – no rhymes, in fact – and there’s no pretence of speaking to or for the masses with high-minded socio-political thematics, either. But he does have an undeniable sense of rhythm which carries the pieces along nicely, and arguably, his straight-talking vignettes are far more real slices of life than the more commercially viable Tempest. No BRIT School priming here: the only privilege informing the work is the privilege of life lived as a means of gathering material, which provides instead, a first-hand grasp of the grubby day-to-day. Coupled with Macmillan-Mason’s knack for narrative, it makes for pieces which are vital and ultimately credible. But he’s not John Cooper-Clarke, either. I love JCC’s pithy poems and rapidfire delivery, but Macmillan-Mason’s brand of social commentary is darker, starker, harsher, and he isn’t out for laughs.
I referred to the material as gritty: Graham raps and raves about bodily fluids with a superabundance of cumstains and saliva and a moderate proliferation of vomit streaking his narratives. The characters who populate these insalubrious spaces are three-dimensional, believable, and presented warts and all. “She would always protest it was difficult to speak with a penis inside of her mouth,” he recounts on ‘Jesse’.
MacMillan-Mason has a remarkably calm, almost affable delivery, which is in some ways at odds with some of the dingier, grainier lines. But it’s this calm, measured approach (and that isn’t to say there’s no passion in his voice: there is, as well as a tangible sense of soul) which renders the words most effective: they’re enunciated with crystal clarity and stand out above the murky droning soundscapes – a mangling mix of guitars and amorphous electronic hum – which provide an appropriately unsettling backdrop.
Sharp, direct and unflinching, The Voices in Your Coma Sleep finds The Eagertongue bringing weight to the idea that literature was the original rock ‘n’ roll, and that literature is the new rock ‘n’ roll, too.