Walls play an integral part in The Twilight Sad’s aesthetic. Since their first release, the Scottish band has used everything in their arsenal to overwhelm listeners with a wall of sound; from Andy MacFarlane’s roaring guitars to accordions and fire extinguishers. Other walls came in the form of singer James Graham’s lyrics, where situations and feelings were cryptic. But, on the band’s fifth album, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time, they’ve begun opening up.
The Twilight Sad have come far with their sound. Their third album, No One Can Ever Know, saw them experiment with synthesisers and motorik rhythms. That sound was combined with their breakthrough gloomy shoegaze to wonderful effect on 2014’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And No One Wants To Leave. For their latest, MacFarlane’s production makes the combination seamless; synths sparkle through the fog of overdriven guitars on “Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting”, and keys float over the dread-infused krautrock groove of “VTr”.
Hooks have always skulked within The Twilight Sad’s music, but now they’ve been brought forward, as on the opening cry of “You’re too close for comfort/ You’re too close to comfort me,” or on “I/m Not Here [missing face]”. The music serves Graham’s Scottish brogue on “Girl Chewing Gum”, where a pacing rhythm reflects his unease in the verses and then raises his voice high within a bed of guitar fuzz. Their focus on melody could be influenced by their touring with The Cure, which is especially noticeable on “The Arbor” and “Videograms”; with both tracks featuring crystal-clear guitar lines, melodic bass and swirling atmospheres similar to those on Disintegration, but sounds completely their own.
Where Graham’s lyrics were once vague and cryptic, now they’re direct and vividly relate the experiences of a depressed mind. A symptom of depression is social isolation, – a desire to disappear – something which is expressed throughout the album: “Running away doesn’t feel so bad,” he reassures himself on “VTr”; “I don’t want to be around me anymore,” on “I/m Not Here [missing face]”, and; “Put me in the ground/ I don’t want to be here anymore,” he begs on “Girl Chewing Gum”. The repetition reflects the way depression leads to sadness which intrudes on thoughts; looping until the sufferer accepts them as truth.
Despite cries for isolation, Graham expresses vulnerability to another person on the quiet album centrepiece “Sunday Day13”. Over sparkling synths and light touches of piano, he promises the person who has helped him “too many times” that “It won’t be like this all the time”. Depression sufferers often feel like they’re a burden on the ones they love, and being vulnerable about these feelings is difficult; its why on “VTr” he undercuts the optimism of the line “There’s no love too small” with the pessimistic “I won’t be surprised if it kills us all”. But, by opening up lyrically and musically, The Twilight Sad have crafted a masterpiece that beautifully expresses the thoughts and heart of a fragile mind.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Twilight Sad’s It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is out now through Rock Action Records.