The Twilight Sad - Exclusive Album Preview

The band's new 'Forget The Night Ahead' LP heard...
The Twilight Sad 2009
Scottish foursome The Twilight Sad made quite the impact with their ferocious debut album of 2007, ‘Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters’. Balancing fiery post-rock-kissed cacophonies with passages of utmost introspective tenderness, the band delivered on all the promise they’d show to that point, and some. How the album didn’t make the Mercury Prize list is, honestly, beyond me, and live they swiftly developed from an onslaught for the ears to an act with a greater control of nuances and textures.

They’re still loud, though, as attendees of their forthcoming shows in Edinburgh and London will find out. Seriously: pack the plugs.

Gig-goers are sure to hear selections from the band’s forthcoming second album, ‘Forget The Night Ahead’, which Clash is pleased to preview here. Released in September, the 11-track long-player has been on the office stereo for much of the day, and here’s our initial thoughts on what’s still ringing in our lugholes. We’re keeping things vague for now, as cursory listens can’t get us anywhere close to discovering all the delights contained on this anticipated disc.

‘Forget The Night Ahead’ was recorded in Chem 19 studios in Scotland by guitarist Andy MacFarlane and mixed by Paul Savage (formerly of The Delgados); it's due for release in October via FatCat. Find the band’s studio diary, exclusive to ClashMusic.com, HERE.

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What’s immediately striking about ‘Forget The Night Ahead’ is how confident the band sounds – while their debut was recorded essentially for themselves, here they know they’ve an audience, and are looking to challenge it with a brutal, almost Nine Inch Nails-like introduction by the name of ‘Reflection Of The TV’. The drums pound powerfully atop minimalist guitar tones, a rumbling bass driving the piece towards its first encounter with James Graham’s vocals. As expected, the singer’s accent is thick, but his delivery exudes a warmth that counters the icy edge of the music around him, making ‘Reflection…’ a stirring reintroduction to one of the country’s most arrestingly combustive bands.

That said, the greater compositional variety on this album has produced fewer of the band’s trademark slow-build-to-massive-explosion arrangements, and familiarity never becomes an issue. ‘I Became A Prostitute’ could pass for Biffy Clyro if the Johnston brothers were trying to out-roar a jet engine, all hypnotic swirls and considered percussion, with Graham raising his voice only when prompted by the swell from MacFarlane’s super-amplified six strings. If My Bloody Valentine had ever fully embraced pop structures, and brought a Scottish singer into the fold, this would be the glorious result.

A brief breather is presented with the segue between ‘Seven Years Of Letters’ and ‘Made To Disappear’, but before long the listener is tossed once more into the maelstrom – in terms of volume the first four songs on ‘Forget The Night Ahead’ are as powerful as anything on the debut, but so much greater is the detail in each offering, the separating of elements so that each instrument has a clearer space within which to flex, that it’s almost immediately apparent that it’s a substantial step forward – several, even – in their songwriting development. Graham is more forceful here than on the debut, too, getting his messages across with pointed precision for the most part.

While tumultuous, tracks like ‘Birthday Present’ and ‘The Neighbours Can’t Breathe’ (the latter like an angry Idlewild, ‘100 Broken Windows’ era, with a red-hot poker placed somewhere sensitive) display newly-refined edges of accessibility – newcomers are sure to discover hooks beneath the instrumental murk, and existing fans will of course revel in this record’s dramatic turns from hair-prickling noise to stripped-back melancholy. The album closer, ‘At The Burnside’, must rank as one of the band’s greatest achievements yet – a stark piano opens, but the piece grows and bulges and splits, ‘til all is bloodshot and boiling; as it cools, the sounds in your ears caress like ripples of steam rising from a beast entirely spent. It is a riveting exercise in articulating powerful emotions through sound.

And that is all we’re saying, for now: Clash will have more report on this record, and The Twilight Sad, in the future. But so far as first impressions (okay, and second and third impressions) go, it’s safe to say the quartet can be confident of a winner with ‘Forget The Night Ahead’. It already sounds like one of the year’s finest domestic long-players.

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The Twilight Sad – ‘Reflection Of The TV’ (audio only)


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The Twilight Sad (MySpace) release ‘I Became A Prostitute’ as a single on August 3, and play live as follows…

July
2 Edinburgh Bongo Club
4 Kent Hop Farm Festival
9 London ICA
12 Balado T In The Park
18 Newcastle The Cluny

Photographs: Nic Shonfeld

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