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articles 2012

The Twilight Sad

The unmistakable brooding quality of The Twilight Sad's music sounds eerily familiar and has a lot in common with bands like Joy Division, Interpol and Radiohead, but originally from Kilsyth in Scotland, they have carved out a niche among great mood music bands from Scotland: Mogwai, Arab Strap and more recently Aereogramme and Errors, for example. With singer James Graham's distinctive Scottish accent and the band's propensity for creating darkly intense mood pieces generated from indie- and post-rock, the music of The Twilight Sad has a certain storminess some might say is characteristic of their native land.

Since their beginnings in 2003, they have produced consistently exciting music, always prepared to let their sound develop and push things in new directions. In this age of mass consumption music, the subtleties and intricacies of this band make them worth getting to know. The Twilight Sad's debut in 2007 Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters certainly made people sit up, the angst of its lyrics combined with the sort of dense fog of sound (courtesy of guitarist Andy McFarlane) Glasvegas can only dream about! Graham alludes to things rather than tackling them head on, so we feel his pain through the resonance of songs like 'Cold Days From The Birdhouse' with its "ruined plans" and "romantic gestures" and 'That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy' where he describes the turbulent emotions of a 14-year old being stuck at home and "the kids are on fire." Both slate the album's frustrated mood, with the oblique references to walks in the rain and battling the elements (and personalities!) adding a distinctly Scottish 'flavour'. However, combining many different elements of rock (including the wild abandon of the shoegaze era!), the album left a strong critical imprint and helped the band amass a following all over the world.

On their second album in 2009 Forget The Night Ahead, the lyrics were bleaker and the music darker and even more highly charged. Although again Graham is still quite confessional, something like an Irvine Welsh novel where the main protagonist admits everything warts'n'all before he reaches epiphany, references to prostitutes, wasted lives and "throwing things to the dogs", he refused to drop his guard in interviews so we're still all left wondering? 'The Birthday Present' is a stonewall classic carved out of post-rock granite and 'Seven Years Of Letters' extends the despairing mood as the band ratchet up the sound even further. The mood is also something they transfer well to the live arena where they have rightly earned a reputation for really passionate and incendiary (not to mention quite deafening!) performances.

With two albums and a batch of ep's under their belt by February 2010, bass player Clive Ozel left the band to pursue his own music, and mid-year release The Wrong Car ep lit the flames of a new era and direction for The Twilight Sad. Although 2 of the songs, 'The Wrong Car' and 'Throw Yourself In The Water Again' chart a familiar path, 'The Room' from their sophomore release was remixed by Mogwai with syncopated beats and sparse electronica, and 'Reflexion Of The Television' was also revamped by post-electro Scottish band Errors. Their latest album No One Can Ever Know, eagerly anticipated, is a solidification of this new direction, McFarlane shifting to keyboards to give Graham a slightly different Warp-inspired dark palette for his dark subject matter, and the band's sound has been guided by the likes of legendary techno producer Andrew Weatherall. The album scales the walls of dark electronica with a more industrial (some might say 'Post-Industrial'?) sound like Nine Inch Nails or Cabaret Voltaire. There's also the inevitable magnetism of Joy Division's material, but the band have used the influence sparingly and intelligently No One Can Ever Know will be released on Fat Cat Records on February 6th and is a coming-of-age album in which The Twilight Sad strike out in a different direction to create a whole brave new world of music!

Matthew Haddrill


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