The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | Album reaction
Review and photos by: Graeme J. Baty
‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ has been a long time coming and marks The Twilight Sad’s first album since 2014. That’s quite a remarkable thought, how time flies?! That album became an instant classic, they set themselves a high benchmark. Although it’s taken a long time to release a follow-up, they’ve certainly not been slacking, endless touring and notable side projects have kept them busy. They’ve emerged as one of Scotland’s most revered and respected bands. It’s been a pleasure to watch them rise in recent years. 2019 sees them make another gigantic step towards the big time.
Their fifth album brings some changes; new personnel, record label and a maturing of their sound. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is a fearless leap into the unknown, yet it retains the key characteristics that we love. Much like labelmates Mogwai, TTS seem unable to release a duff record, constantly innovating and ensuring their lasting legacy as one of Scotland’s best bands.
The big question is… does it live up to their previous efforts?
Today I picked up my very own indies only blue edition from the canny folk at Reflex in Newcastle. I’ve tried to resist the temptation to obtain review copies and or to listen to the streamed songs before the release. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been excited about a record and I wanted to make a bit of effort for it.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to have heard some of the songs live. Here I go for the first proper play and I’ll give my reaction track by track! This won’t be a very insightful deep probe into the record, just an honest reaction to the songs as I play them.
[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]
This is weird, slow and droney, the vocals start. Wait a minute! It’s 45 RPM, wow! I pick up the needle and hit the 45rpm toggle. Instantly impressed, as they kickoff the record with graceful but rousing song. A Krautrock loop sounds delightful as James sings “We’re hanging on by a thread”, I’m on the edge of my seat taking this in. It ends on “Why can’t you remember me?” as feedback bubbles underneath and I’m pretty stunned. This is classic Twilight Sad and an incredible opener.
The 45 RPM speed is a nice touch! Hard to compare it to a 33 1/3 record, as I don’t have one! However, the sound quality on the pressing is immaculate, so I can assume it’s a positive.
Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting
What a title! This one I distinctly remember from the Brudenell show. The bassline grabs you, a real Docherty stomper, leaving me with a sore neck! The record version doesn’t disappoint, surely an album highlight. Vocally it conjures very violent imagery. I need to come back to this song and play it some more.
The third song; The Arbor channels eighties guitar arpeggios with a sickly sweet chorus effect. I remember this was another Brudenell highlight. Sorry, I can sense this playback bringing recalling many fond memories, it was my favourite gig of 2018 after all! Back to the music, this is probably the softest tone to a TTS song to date. Touring relentlessly with The Cure would influence any band and the characteristics have made their way into the soul of the new material by way of osmosis. Although they’ve always been fans of The Cure, perhaps now it’s more noticeable. The synths take centre stage, mixed higher and more prominent on the record, more so than even on NOCEK, albeit with a less gothic/industrial twist and a more unapologetic 80s sound. This record is Brendan Smith’s time to shine.
Instantly recognisable! Easily a setlist highlight from the gigs I’ve seen in 2018. The track finds them knocking up the power with some absolutely incredible percussion. Bringing a level of speed (note: that’s speed coupled with precision) that was not present on previous records. The precision and velocity driving the track. Gone are the slow and steady beats. The percussion really shines on the record so far.
“There’s no Love Too Small” VTr is an anthemic stadium-filling masterpiece and I bloody love it!
This is the first real breather on the album. A slow number, more traditional TTS type ‘death ballad’ for want of a better term. It brings disc 1 to a close, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Forget The Night Ahead. I really like this one.
I/m Not Here [missing face]
The smash hit I’m Not Here. Damn, I played this on loop when it came out. Goosebumps still come over me in a wave when I heard the drone of the guitar during the opening. Another broken relationship singalong anthem. James sings quite openly, I can’t help but wonder who this song is about, but I also like the fact that it can be translated to your own experiences, so maybe I’m happy not knowing. Another classic.
This is not letting up, here comes another stormer. Andy’s guitar riff is a thing of pure beauty, great tone! It takes the song to the next level.
This one will need a few more plays just for sheer indulgence, but I’ll continue and come back to this! Ending on Andy’s trademark feedback, the hairs on my neck stand up. Definitely a song for us guitar nerds.
Keep It All To Me
The third side is coming to a close and the album seems to be settling into a groove with a bitter synth led track.
Girl Chewing Gum
Yes! Andy is back! Andy’s guitar playing was the key thing I remember from the first time I saw TTS, this is a flashback to those face melting Marshall stack bludgeons.
“Put me in the ground!” James cries. I think I have a new favourite TTS song!
Let/s Get Lost
Ooooh an 80s power ballad? I’m not sure where this one is going judging by the opening bars. By the time James comes in for the verse and power ballad expectations are dispelled “I’m losing, losing you every day”. As the song finds its feet and power.
Again the percussion is incredible, it’s definitely a drummers record.
This is the one song I wasn’t sure about when I first heard it, going against popular opinion. Reception has been really warm. I recall people singing along to it word for word at the Leeds Academy gig with Mogwai. I’m still not 100% sold on it, sorry! It does, however, make much more sense (soundwise) in context to the record. It was perhaps a bit too The Cure by numbers for me. I’m not the biggest Cure fan in all honesty, my tastes tend to lean towards heavier sounds. There’s a lack of the ‘wall of sound’ guitar noise that I adore so much (although there is a taster of it low in the mix and at the end), so I think that’s where my prejudice comes in. The thing is, I refuse to judge TTS albums or songs on one listen, they just don’t work like that. So I left this one on the back burner and I am now I’m warming to it. I think the main reason I adore TTS is the songs and the dense layers. There’s so much going on, you have to comeback for repeated listens. They reward the patient listener, the more you listen the more you love the music.
Eleven songs in 47 minutes, over four sides, it’s over a bit too fast after such a long wait, but I’ll be going back for a second helping in a bit. It’s a rich album of diverse sounds and perfectly compliments their incredible back catalogue, as always they are fearless when it comes to pushing their sound and I think it’s paid off. There are songs on here to keep everyone happy.
I must comment on the impressive package, I’m actually now debating buying the normal black vinyl edition to compliment it. This indies only version features a lovely pale blue colour swap to the pink/red colour tone of the standard version. A nice touch! Double gatefold with some heavy uppercase typeset lyric sheets on the inner cover, perfect for dissecting James Graham’s fascinating lyrics. This is is what to expect when you sign to Rock Action, they make immaculate releases, crafted for the music lover and collector. They’ve done a sterling job on this!
This record must have some of the most accessible and instantly impressive songs in their history. That’s not to say they aren’t as densely layered or are easier on the ears, just through hard work and relentless touring TTS are at their unequivocal finest, they’ve masterfully evolved their sound with each record, fine-tuning and delivering constantly. There’s a linear progress that can be traced all the way back to their early recordings and this record feels like a culmination of that work.
The secret is out now. The time is right for world domination.
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is out today (18th Jan 2019) on Rock Action Records