Sunday, 5 February 2012

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #24: The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know

Written 6th February 2012:

The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

The Band: James Graham (vocals), Andy MacFarlane (guitar, accordian) Mark Devine (Drums), Johnny Doherty (bass), Martin Doherty (Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Guitar)

Now I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for some time now because excitingly this means the return of The Twilight Sad with the release of their 3rd album ‘No One Can Ever Know’. Hailing from Kilsyth, Scotland I first really discovered the band after they were offered to support fellow Scottish-Indie Rockers (and one of my all-time favourite bands) Idlewild on a UK Tour. I was blown away by how powerful and intense a sound the band could create live, yet the band’s tracks still at heart were lyrically deep and poignant and I found myself, like many other Idlewild fans, had discovered another great band from ‘North of the Border’ that once you had heard their music or seen them live you had a new found dedication for. The band released their full-debut album ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ to critical-acclaim in 2007 and this debut did an excellent job of catching the band’s intense live sound while lined with the distinct Scottish tones and cryptic lyrics from James throughout.

However, if their debut album had set the bar high, then for me their 2009 follow-up ‘Forget the Night Ahead’ knocked the bar flying! An album built around Andy’s layered, brooding guitar tracks and extravagant over-use of distortion, accompanied by highly-accomplished, almost military style, thunderous drumming from Mark throughout the record, this record for me is somewhat of a modern classic, that I found myself listening to at least twice a month for nearly 2 years! Yes really! Again littered with Graham’s distinct vocals and even more cryptic, somewhat downbeat lyrics, ‘Forget the Night Ahead’ was a much darker, brooding beast of a record than ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ and all the better for it in my opinion!

I managed to catch the band live at the London Borderline last November and we got an early preview of some of the new material from this latest effort by the band and today’s review focus ‘No One Can Ever Know’. Early indications on the new tracks were that the band had still captured their cavernous live sound but with somewhat more of a nod to synths and electronics used on the tracks so let’s see how the record fairs overall.

No One Can Ever Know

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

So opening with recent live favourite ‘Alphabet’ we get early indications of the synth sounding direction this record takes in my opinion, with a slow, brooding verse laced with a repeating synth-tone and the familiar ‘military’ drumming from Mark returning. James’ lyrics here suggests an individual’s attempts to woo back a former-lover but as always with his style, his lyrics are cryptic and open to interpretation while Andy helps close the track with a snarling guitar riff. This is a decent opening track in my opinion that helps retain the band’s sound from their previous albums, while subtly showing an early indication of the band’s progression in sound for this particular record. Under a cover of distortion and an aggressive drum-rhythm ‘Dead City’ follows and here James’ vocals are initially more softly-sung as the track steadily builds itself up and gains momentum throughout being one of the more faster tracks on the album, before really peaking halfway through at a power chorus with James belting out vocals like there is no tomorrow! It’s quite an instant track for the record and closes with the album title being repeated to a closing crescendo.

Slowing things down a little more initially with a catchy, guitar melody, previous 7” single ‘Sick’ appears next and is another track that really highlight’s James clear, crisp vocals while Andy lays down a nice electric-guitar repeating melody that partners the story of the track very well. With more synths appearing halfway through and accompanying the 2nd verse, this track has a real individual feel to it and teases the listener with its slowly unfolding story, yet never giving too much away, this is a prime example of the more poignant, heartfelt type of track the band are capable of that I referred to earlier. ‘Don’t Move’ is the most synth-led track so far on the album and is doubled-up with a backing accordion here, to create a hazy, swaying sound while upbeat percussion and backing-guitar still retain a real sense of urgency about the track. It’s a much layered track indeed and demands the listener’s attention to fully take in all of the instruments that help this track cruise along comfortably. ‘Nil’ is initially the most subtle of all the tracks on the album with minimal keys at the start and a real focus on James’ ‘distant’ vocals highlighting the track. Again another track that slowly burns and builds, industrial drums tender the track mid-way through, but this is primarily a soft-track that seems to reflect upon a bad incident among a group of friends with the repeated line of “We all know whose fault it was!” appearing throughout and provoking more thought from the listener, this is quite a standout track on the record and bridges the first and second half of the album cleverly.

Over halfway through the record ‘Don’t Look at Me’ ups the tempo of the LP again with a punchy one-two drum rhythm and floaty keyboards and synths here pushing us further along on our journey through the album. This would be the perfect track to listen to on a long overnight drive in the manner that it comfortably pulls the listen along for the ride; it’s another very subtle but effective track on the record. Opting for a piano led opening, ‘Not Sleeping’ is the slow-burner on the album with particular focus again on the story being masterfully told through it, before slow, dramatic drumming and synths draw this track out. I actually have really no idea what this track is about but bizarrely find that a part of the charm about it. With a vibe that smacks of Joy Division to me, ‘Another Bed’ has in my opinion quite a retro feel to it, with the pace of the high-pitched synths used on it certainly not being out of place from a late night club in the 80’s in my opinion. One of the more upbeat tracks, it’s quite an instant track to get into and really highlights the much more ‘electronic-vibe’ the band have opted for with this 3rd record.

However, the band possibly saves the best to last on this intriguingly told tale, with its many twists and turns, with closing track ‘Kill It In the Morning’. Another up-tempo electronic, synth led track it fully encapsulates the album as a whole and is driven by a dynamic bass groove throughout it, and in my opinion should be somewhat of a cult anthem across Indie Clubs over the country! This is probably the stand-out track on the album for me and will surely be a single at some point, to say it’s an excellent track to close the album would be an understatement, so check it out! Overall I think this album shows that the band have really made an attempt to up the boundaries of their already quite unique sound and take it to another level. I certainly think with this album they do it with quite a degree of success and I find myself completely engrossed with this record upon each listen and still discovering little facets of noise and instruments I may have missed upon earlier listens, which is a real credit to the care and effort you can tell that has been put into this record. For me personally I don’t think it quite tops ‘Forget the Night Ahead’ but I don’t think that was the band’s intention anyway but rather progress their sound and re-invent their style here something I thing they certainly achieve successfully. I think fans of the recent Editors album, and particular of the more old-school dark, electronic sounds of Depeche Mode and particularly Joy Division will find plenty here to please them. I’m very much into this album already and am going to award it 8 Untold Secrets out of 10 and can see me having this on my playlist for quite a while yet in the foreseeable future. However, if you’ve not heard the band’s previous two albums, I’d recommend them both as well, in particular ‘Forget the Night Ahead’ as it’s an amazing record from the last few years!

Unknowing ‘Flynny’

Track 1 ‘Alphabet’

Track 3 ‘Sick’

Track 9 ‘Kill It In The Morning’