In a sentence:
The Twilight Sad’s fifth effort ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ is a vulnerable and profoundly human album, and that feels vital and timely in 2019.
In the four-plus years since they last released an album, The Twilight Sad have undergone some pretty serious changes, both physically and emotionally. Drummer Mark Devine quit the group this time last year, leaving vocalist James Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane as the band’s sole founding members left. They also parted ways with their label of nearly ten years, FatCat, and signed with Mogwai’s own imprint Rock Action. Most significantly, their friend Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, took his own life in May 2018. As new full-time members Brendan Smith and Jonny Docherty bedded in, the group hit the festival circuit last summer, and their version of the Rabbits’ ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ was spine-tingling, their notoriously ear-splitting live sets taking on an even deeper gravitas. That has inevitably informed the themes of their fifth effort, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time.
But there’s something different about the noise this time around, more restrained and with a greater emphasis on dynamics, rather than straight-out cathartic raging, that makes It Won/t Be Like This All The Time the most fulfilling collection of songs The Twilight Sad have ever delivered. It somehow harnesses both the restraint of their last outing, 2014’s Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave, and the powerful, unremitting bleakness of their previous best, 2012’s No One Can Ever Know.
Last year’s single ‘I/m Not Here [Missing Face]’, with its majestic motorik chassis, was the first clue to the important tweaks that have made the band’s sound complete on this album. New single ‘VTr’ boasts a mechanical, Joy Division-esque rhythm but manages to breathe new life and vigour into that extremely well-worn template. The waltzing guitar riff of ‘The Arbor’ shows how the group have evolved in the time they’ve been away, with the sparse, ethereal electronics shimmering in a manner of a more miserable Cocteau Twins, while closing salvo ‘Videograms’ is possibly the greatest single track in the band’s career to date.
There’s also plenty of slate-grey post-punk
maelstroms in which The Twilight Sad have always specialized, in the likes of ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’
and the unnerving imageries of ‘Girl
Chewing Gum’. It’s just that, this time around, they are rendered in even
sharper detail, and the context in which the album was written and recorded
makes it all the weightier and more urgent. Graham’s lyrics, according his
expressed desire to be “less cryptic”, are more direct and descriptive, often
taking the form of anxious questions or observations about the future and affairs
of the heart, such as “we’re hanging on
by a thread”, “I’m losing you every
day” or “would you throw me out in
the cold?”. Lyrics that would be sentimental in lesser hands, but whose
simplicity is powerfully resonant here.
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time also features a new-found concision and clarity to the sonics that often rendered previous records a bit murky. It’s evident in the panning electronic cascades on opener ‘[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]’. Graham still battles to be heard above the noise, but his voice is presented front and centre of the mix, with treble is emphasised over bass. His presence as a frontman has also grown, making the sound of The Twilight Sad more epic and grandiose, much like The Cure’s legendary Disintegration, as opposed to the sometimes cryptic introspection of previous efforts.
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is a vulnerable and profoundly human album, and one that feels both vital and timely as 2019 unfurls. As far as big, bold and dark music goes, The Twilight Sad may be in a long and proud lineage of gothic post-punk, but this album demonstrates their towering superiority over other modern practitioners like Editors or White Lies. It’s not for nothing that Robert Smith has so repeatedly sung their praises. (9/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to It Won/t Be Like This All The Time by The Twilight Sad here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Andy MacFarlane, Ed Biggs, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time, Jonny Docherty, Rock Action, the twilight sad
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