The Scottish outfit's first album in over four years is a blistering collection of their brand of cynicism, while offering a new sense of optimism in all the chaos.
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The Twilight Sad would be forgiven for taking over four years to release their fifth studio album. Their longest gap between studio albums might have felt long for fans, but must have felt like a decade for the band. The Kilsyth-based group’s drummer, Mark Devine, left in January 2018, shortly following a year-long trek supporting The Cure. Then they terminated their relationship with Fat Cat Records, a relationship that has lasted over a decade. The biggest fight for the band occurred in May 2018. Best friend, and local music icon, Scott Hutchison died, a shocking and heartbreaking event no-one could truly predict. The Twilight Sad have immortalised their love for the Frightened Rabbit singer with covers at shows; look at their cover of ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ at Primavera, the passion is overwhelming.
2014’s ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’ was perceived by vocalist James Graham to be the last album by The Twilight Sad. Evolving their sound through more synth-driven melodies and large scale visions, the album was dense but directionless. In comparison, ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ is a fully-fleshed record that annexes the usual anger with purpose. ‘It Won/t…’ is more immense, expansive and personal than any album of theirs before. ‘Nobody…’ could have been their last record, but ‘It Won/t…’ routinely highlights how they need to get things off their chest.
If ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ is a cathartic tell-all, then ‘[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]’ is the piercing of an emotional spot. Sirens sound off the album – a warning for the listener. Distortion and faint ambience dominates the beginning, creating a disturbing and unsettled terrain. Then chords emerge, lifting the song away from the alarm – or at least away enough to prevent danger.
From the off, The Twilight Sad place a state of unfit, unstable humanity at the forefront; the instrumentation rewards James Graham for opening up by infusing warmth into the otherwise frosty surroundings. As the song crescendos into a spectacular climax, Graham reaches a tipping point. Questioning an individual, he asks: “Do they understand you? Do they call out your name? Do they even miss you? All these boys look the same“. His flurry of questions are strained, forced, but ultimately necessary. The song is tiring and draining, but is so weighted in pain that it is a fulfilling experience.
In keeping with tradition of The Twilight Sad, ‘It Won/t…’ is a bruising, heavy album. ‘Auge/Maschine’ and ‘Shooting Dennis Hooper Shooting’ are venting, gritty cuts, especially the former. It is a lyrically direct track dominated by fuzzy guitars and a relentless rhythm section, maintaining a level of intensity set by the lead single before it.
‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ works as an album by not just sticking to a sonic tone, but a lyrical one. Throughout the record, Graham appears defeated. In ‘Let/s Get Lost’, one of the only forgettable moments on the album, lyrics like, “It’s just another heartache to me”, are repeated. It is as if James Graham is reciting it to remind himself the breakdown of a relationship. Meanwhile ‘Keep It All To Myself’ encapsulates despair with the full-scale drama that The Twilight Sad have pinned down. With lines like: “You put up with me and the love that you see, You deserve so much more”, Graham surrenders himself to defeat.
Lead single ‘I/m Not Here [Missing Face]’ justifies its five-and-a-half minute run time by constantly evolving and building upon layers. The chorus finds Graham’s vocals taking the forefront as lines like: “I don’t want to be around you anymore” are repeated with the pronouns swapping around. He bleakly confesses, “Won’t stop if the tears turn bad I’ll drink everything in sight“, with the dejected approach of someone on the brink of giving up. With the consistent build and loud, driving drums, it is a superb post-rock cut that expands instrumentally and vocally before concluding in a vitriolic fashion.
It is not all full-throttle angst-ridden rock anthems. ‘The Arbor’ recalls The Twilight Sad fans The Cure, with the coiling guitars and echoed hook. It is chilling, but serves as a comedown after the onslaught of ‘Shooting Dennis Hooper Shooting’. ‘Sunday Day13’ is a mediator between the aforementioned lead single and the anthemic ‘VTr’. The latter is one of the album’s most soaring numbers.
Album closer ‘Videograms’ doesn’t quite stick the landing but is a confident, optimistic finale. It possesses a persistent 80s synth in the background as Graham, for the first time, fully rescinds himself of the blame. It is an honest and fair conclusion, with James Graham staring a character in the face and asking bluntly: “Is it still me that you love?” The Twilight Sad have always been tight, a band that can communicate through their extremely direct sound. ‘Videograms’ shows that while the songs explore more electronic sounds, they maintain that sense of unanimity.
‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ is a strategic, clinical record from a self-aware band. The title alone is brilliant – while summarising the album’s themes, it is broad enough to resonate with those unaware of the band’s suffering. At times the album is formulaic but the commitment to inject sound keeps the record fresh. The Twilight Sad fight a battle on this album between opening up about pain and hiding away. By the end, it is very clear that they have won.