Sunday, February 5, 2012
[pitchfork.com] Here's an incomplete recap of the Twilight Sad's self-reported listening syllabus leading up to their third album, No One Can Ever Know: Cabaret Voltaire, Magazine, Autechre, Public Image Ltd., Nine Inch Nails. In other words, a group that has to this point been either compared to shoegazers or other Scottish acts (Aereogramme, Mogwai) was looking to completely overhaul its sound. That's a good thing-- while their debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters was the work of a powerful and fully realized band, its follow-up Forget the Night Ahead suggested it wasn't a particularly versatile one. Whether it was a result of familiarity or just its suffocated production, the torrential downpour of Andy MacFarlane's guitars and James Graham's heavily accented howl didn't have the same impact.
Now here's a nearly complete list of who No One Can Ever Know actually sounds like: The Twilight Sad. That's also a good thing. No One Can Ever Know is kind of a failure as a total sonic rebranding, but it's a strong transition for the band into something a little more form-fitting while carrying over their commitment to morose atmosphere and Graham's handsome vocals, deeply entrenched characteristics that just so happen to be their strengths.
Still, that they brought in Andrew Weatherall to produce is proof enough that they meant business. The mention of Weatherall's name most instantly brings to mind his work on Primal Scream's Screamadelica and Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport, two records whose wildly bright timbres and celebratory attitudes exist somewhere way the fuck on the other side of the world from where the Twilight Sad set up shop. That's still the case if song titles like "Kill It in the Morning" and "Dead City" are any indication of what's to come, and they sure are. It's tough to pinpoint the exact contributions, but whether Weatherall was meant as a spiritual adviser or a contributor is a moot point-- the Twilight Sad intended for this to be a frigid, militant, and rhythmic record, and they got it.
The main difference is the shape these songs allow themselves to take: "Cold Days From the Birdhouse" and "I Became a Prostitute" achieved weapons-grade catharsis by cresting and crashing unexpectedly, visually represented by right-angle dynamics. No longer able to fall back on volcanic distortion to bring the big moments, the Twilight Sad have more curvature and forward motion, something closer to the color-drained gothic clangor of Pornography-era Cure ("Don't Look at Me") or "Street Spirit"/"Knives Out" Radiohead (particularly "Sick") than any of the post-punk firebrands they namechecked. Accordions (or approximations thereof) wheeze, artificial strings moan, and guitars are thick with distortion, yet everything feels of a single piece, and at first it makes No One feel a bit limited dynamically compared to its predecessors. But it's a record more about obsession than release, and the mesmerizing, cyclical guitar figures of "Sick" and the throttle-down locomotion of "Don't Move" make the best use of repetition as a conveyance of passion.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 4:46 AM