Monday, February 6, 2012

Album Review: The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know

Album Rating: B
I’m an avid admirer of pretty much anything that the wind swept hills of Scotland can muster, but I must admit I’ve often found The Twilight Sad to be a bit of a drag. They may be among the most acclaimed acts of the current crop, but for me, at least, there’s always been an uninviting aspect to their music which has rendered it largely impenetrable. The dense and noisy soundscapes that they’ve specialised in until now have been nothing if not accomplished, but at the same time have done very little to persuade me into revisiting them.

A post-punk reinvention is hardly something you’d recommend to a band that leaves one so cold, but that’s exactly what the Kilsyth trio have done on this third full length, and on the surface the results are just as chilly as you’d imagine. This is desolate music, devoid of any form of warmth, with what life it could have had sucked out by the industrial instrumental tones and James Graham's broader-than-broad Glaswegian drawl - which coupled together act like a musical equivalent to liquid nitrogen. I thought it improbable that The Twilight Sad could become any less welcoming, but that eventuality has most certainly arisen with No One Can Ever Know.

While that frosty bite has been a turn-off in the past , however, this time they make it work to their advantage. To put it straight, this is a sound which plays to their strengths infinitely more than the post-rock leanings of Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters and Forget The Night Ahead, and as such the record as a whole tends to be far more enjoyable. By and large, the nine songs here are all calculated and mid-tempo, allowing Graham's fabulous dialect to grab the spotlight and dictate proceedings. His voice was a weapon often buried under the weight of distortion on their previous recordings, but here it's given the time and space in which to shine, and the results are suitably impressive.

Aside from that, the main strength that the band draw on with this record is in fact a new addition to their pallet. Bringing synths into the mix is hardly the most original step for a band of their type, but the icy electronics drafted in here do a brilliant job in fleshing out the bare bones of their sound. The way in which they incorporate them isn't too dissimilar from the efforts of fellow brits White Lies and Editors, but fear not, as the Scots manage to pull off the transition with a great deal more subtlety and sophistication than either of those contemporaries. Generally, it's the sound that which excels rather than the songs, with sinister second track 'Dead City' being perhaps the only individual moment that stands out, but such is the quality of that sound that standout moments are scarcely needed.

It's a far cry from those earlier releases, which possessed many of the same elements but made far less use of them, and as such this record can be viewed as an unqualified success. It's still not an especially easy listen, and an appetite for diversity is virtually non-existent, but sometimes a lack of variation is the best way to showcase such a sound, and that would certainly seem to be the case here. As with all records which display drastic change, No One Can Ever Know is bound to be met with a mixed reception, but for this writer, at least, it's improved efficiency makes it comfortably the strongest Twilight Sad outing yet.

Official Website


1. Alphabet
2. Dead City
3. Sick
4. Don't Move
5. Nil
6. Don't Look at Me
7. Not Sleeping
8. Another Bed
9. Kill It in the Morning

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