Post-Rocktoberfest: Insides (and Earwig)
Insides was the Brighton-based duo of J.Serge Tardo and Kirsty Yates. Tardo and Yates started releasing music together in the very early ’90s as two-thirds of the band Earwig, alongside Dimitri Voulis.
Earwig’s first E.P. – Hardly – displays a distinct post-punk influence with Tardo’s scratchy guitar and Yates’ strident vocals layered atop some rather fussy drum machine beats. Melodically, the influence of the Smiths is also felt heavily throughout.
What really sets apart songs like “Blind, Stupid and Desperate” and “It’s the Waiting I Can’t Stand” is the lyric writing of Kirsty Yates. From the get-go, she had an incredible talent for arranging apparently mundane phrases into stanzas of chilling malice and almost embarrassing intimacy.
By 1992, when Earwig released its one-and-only full length LP – Under My Skin I am Laughing – the Insides sound was pretty much in place. The electronics had become more pronounced (but sparser) and the guitars more ornate.
Once again, though, it was Yates who made the real difference. She’d started to slur and lisp her way through the songs. The malice was greater but it was also more insidious – wrapped in a soft, warm blanket of sensuality.
The following year, the debut Insides album Euphoria was released on 4AD subsidiary Guernica. Voulis had left the band and the sound developed on Under My Skin had been perfected.
Euphoria is, without a doubt, Tardo and Yates’ masterpiece. It opens with the almost straightforwardly sexy “Walking in Straight Lines” lines but as the album progresses, it gets ever darker – as if the characters described in the songs are sinking deeper and deeper into viciously dysfunctional relationships.
Pretty much every song on this album is gold but “Relentless” ranks as a mid-point highlight. You are strongly urged to seek out a hard copy of Euphoria. Everybody should have one.
The year after that, Insides released an instrumental E.P. called Clearskin. Its one track – “In Search of Spaces” – brings in a noticeable Steve Reich influence. In and of itself, Clearskin is great and really quite ambitious. But coming right after the emotionally intense Euphoria, it seemed like a bit of a cop out.
After Clearskin, Insides did what all the great post-rock bands were doing at that time: they disappeared. Rather astonishingly though, they actually released a second full-length album in 2000. The ’90s may have been over by this point but you wouldn’t guess it listening to the inoffensively jazzy trip-hop of Sweet Tip.
The album has a few great tracks – notably “All Life Long” and “Nothing Could be Sweeter” – but it utterly lacks the highly individual musical inventiveness and sly lyrical intensity that made Euphoria a classic.