A man once said “no-one does dourness better than us Scots”. Despite that man being me, Kilsyth outfit, ‘The Twilight Sad‘, have formed part of a tremendous Scottish musical contingent (alongside artists like ‘Arab Strap‘, ‘Frightened Rabbit‘ (RIP Scott) & ‘Mogwai‘), whose discographies have proven that never a truer word has been spoken. Keeping to tradition, ‘The Twilight Sad‘, return with their most accessible album to date with “It Won/t Be Like This All The Time” whilst impressively retaining their epic gloominess in all its glory.
Over the years, ‘The Twilight Sad‘, have weaved & honed their sound exploring a variety of territories behind often deeply personal songwriting. The outstanding debut album, ‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters‘, took a shoegaze / wall of sound approach featuring shimmering guitars & drones of white noise painting dense haunting textures (I can’t get past the similarities to the instrumentation on early tracks from ‘The Walkmen‘) with big choruses delivered by the pronounced Scottish accent of James Graham. This was pursued by the even darker, ‘Forget the Night Ahead‘, before synths & drum machines replaced the wallowing guitars & pounding drums on ‘No One Can Ever Know‘ producing a colder album as the band shifted towards industrial & krautrock. Their last LP, ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here & Nobody Wants to Leave‘, took a U-turn in a sense back to their early output but it was at a slower tempo with a more melodic, rounder & eerie feeling than the edgy & raw soundscapes of before (think more ‘The National‘ than ‘Interpol‘).
Whilst being universally critically acclaimed pretty much across their entire back catalogue & their notoriously brilliant live performances (a must see in my opinion), they have almost flown under the radar. Not quite receiving the mainstream acknowledgement, they rightfully deserve….well until now with ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time‘which has just posted No.1 in the album chart in Scotland (& top 20 in the UK).
Rather than take another diversion with their sound on ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time‘, they have borrowed elements from their catalogue & sprinkled these across the record. There is a welcome return of a faster pace which is evident from the outset with the cracking first track, ‘[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]‘ (which also happens to be one of the strongest on the record). There is a driving beat acting as an undercurrent for a thick heavy atmosphere which smothers the opening twisty synth. This album finds Graham on tremendous form. His vocals are bone crushingly impassioned & you can feel the paranoia & anxiety emanating out him. This resonation is also helped by his heart on sleeve lyrical approach which is more commanding than on previous records where his lyrics occasionally were shrouded in imagery & metaphors.
However ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time‘ isn’t completely a hark back to the masterpiece debut though as there is a more direct feeling to the faster tracks which in turn aids its accessibility to those new to the band. One of the best examples is lead single, ‘VTr‘, which perfectly encapsulates the best of this LP. There are just so many things to like whether it be the twinkly synths on the chorus or the catchy riff at the end of the verses or the emotive breakdown which is swallowed back in by the returning pulsating instrumentation.
A similar formula is felt on tracks like ‘Girl Chewing Gum‘, ‘Let/s Get Lost‘, ‘Auge/Maschine‘ & perhaps most strongly again on ‘I/M Not Here [Missing Face]‘. This song in particular contains the record’s best & catchiest chorus (just pipping ‘Videograms‘): “I don’t wanna be around you anymore / I can’t stand to be around you anymore…” & I like the way the lines are neatly interchanged later in the track.
Elsewhere the icy synths & keyboard, which first made an appearance on their 3rd LP, remain a key part particularly on the slower tracks. The best is the utterly encapsulating ‘Sunday Day13‘ where a mournful tone conveyed by soft keys beautifully amplifies the pain in Graham’s voice. However there is mixed success on some of the others where ‘Keep It All To Myself‘ is saved by another stunning vocal performance, ‘The Arbor‘, isn’t so lucky. However this is only a minor blot in an otherwise stunning album.
Overall the record is still probably closest to ‘Nobody Wants to be Here & Nobody Wants to Leave‘ in terms of production but with touches of industrial (from ‘No One Can Ever Know‘) & a welcome return of the raw pacey sound from their treasured debut (which undoubtedly remains my personal favourite). This has created a varied & well rounded record with the band feeling genuinely comfortable in their bleakness, in full knowledge they have crafted & found exactly how they want to sound.
Top Track: VTr
Top Lyric: There’s no love too small / And I won’t be surprised if it kills us all
Review by Scott Bingham (Follow him on Twitter at @in_the_riot)
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time was released on Rock Action Records on 18th January & is available in all good record stores & on Spotify
You can catch The Twilight Sad live at the following dates in February/March,
27 Feb – Manchester, UK – Gorilla
28 Feb – London, UK – Electric Ballroom
02 Mar – Glasgow, UK – Barrowlands
And can keep up to date with future announcements on http://thetwilightsad.com/tourdates/