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A review of...
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time by The Twilight Sad
The Twilight Sad haven't released an album since 2014's Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. That's 5 long years, a cavernous gap for a band who seemed to be just hitting their stride at that point, but a lot has happened in the interim, and when you look at it all on paper it's not surprising that they haven't been re-entering the studio in any sort of hurry. Firstly they formed an unlikely (or likely, depending on how you look at it) friendship with The Cure, which started off with Robert Smith covering "There’s a Girl in the Corner" and culminated in a ridiculous mammoth stadium tour with The Cure (do The Cure do it any other way?). Professionally, they (amicably) lost a founding member (drummer Mark Devine), turned two touring musicians into official bandmates (Brendan Smith and Johnny Docherty) and moved labels from Fat Cat to Rock Action. Singer James Graham became a father back in may, and shortly afterwards lost one of his closest friends, the massively missed Scott Hutchison (although these songs were written and recorded prior to those huge personal events).
So, from a musical point of view, what's changed? Well, that fact that the album opens with "[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]", a song that contains ample ghostly keyboards and a killer bass-line which occasionally acts as a hook is probably a sign that the band have been taking on a few tips from R. Smith and co. They are now writing songs that will one day fill giant venues by themselves. Subtlety has been told to go and sit in the corner. If it's not a synthesiser or bass guitar filling every gap, it's one of Andy MacFarlane's wonderfully brutalist guitar lines or Graham's soaring vocals (which seem to be even more intense and impassioned than normal).
There are occasional moments of respite from this full-on bombast though, such as the pleasantly bleak "Sunday Day13" which to be fair is still dense as a stone, but it's a slower and quieter density. Then there's "The Arbor" which again borrows some echoey production tips from mid-1980s Cure and other giants from the era, in a much more slowed down contemplating manner.
The most surprising thing here though is just how poppy the band can be given the chance. "VTr" is like a lost song from a Tony Scott soundtrack. Epic and uplifting, but with just enough howling guitar fuzz in the background to let you know that it's still very much a Twilight Sad song. "Keep It All To Myself" is an oddly romantic gothic ballad, the sort of thing you'll occasionally see on those 1980s repeats of Top of the Pops and think "this is pop music, but there's something not quite right about it..." (e.g. New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain). The album as an entity, despite it's dark moments and imagery, is actually far more accessible than anything that's come before.
To think that not so long ago, before Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave was released, the band were talking about jacking it all in. What a difference a few years can make. The Twilight Sad are going from strength to strength.