The Twilight Sad are known for their highly dramatic, visceral indie-rock but even these are somewhat lazy labels that make them sound more mundane than they are. Though there are a lot of acts favouring a similar style (and some from several decades ago), there remains something unique about this group of Scotsmen. They are young, passionate and Robert Smith loves them, so just over a decade of hard graft now seems to be paying off as they prepare to release their fifth studio album on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. The question is: has it changed them now the world seems to be becoming their oyster?
Although heavier than previous incarnations, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time creates something really quite beautiful and, as its title suggests, quite reflective. A deep-seeded wish to connect with people beyond technology fuels the core songwriting duo of singer James Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane. Inevitably, maturing as human beings and musicians has had a profound effect. The trademarks of their sound are still there but there seems to be greater confidence in what they are offering, as might be expected considering the belief that has been placed in them by their mentors.
Unsurprisingly, The Cure’s influence is noticeable on much of the album. ’[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]’ begins with a frantic pace and a searing, searching tone, channelling a raw and emotional display and setting the scene for a startlingly honest collection that can only be admired. In a world where so many artists have tragically succumbed to their own demons, it is exciting to hear, even essential. Graham’s stark Glaswegian accent adds to the group’s poetic nature; unafraid and unapologetic, The Twilight Sad are entirely genuine in what they portray, which only adds to the dark fascination they command.
That’s not to say that listening to The Twilight Sad is a tortuous and depressing journey – conversely, to experience such depth and personality in rock music is truly uplifting. “Running away doesn’t feel so bad”, Graham muses in ‘Vtr’, a bass-heavy nod to Joy Division, which strangely wouldn’t be out of place on an 80s teen horror soundtrack either. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it kills us all”, he states, incase there was any risk of romance in the lyrical content, leading into a powerful but simplistic take on post-punk, that asks a lot of questions and starts a few internal arguments along the way.
Recent single ‘I/m Not Here (Missing Face)’ is a more intricately layered arrangement that smacks to the gut, the whole band a brutal, combustible compliment to a heavyweight vocal performance, which has plenty to say. Certainly, to hear The Twilight Sad’s message is a completely immersive yet voyeuristic privilege. By the time final track ‘Videograms’ arrives, the listener is trapped somewhere between wanting to pull some silhouetted shapes to the high class industrial rhythm and wanting to go out and save a life. Either way, what a spectacular way to start 2019. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time sets the bar high – fans won’t be able to tear themselves away and won’t want to because The Twilight Sad provide evidence that as long as there is music, there is hope.