Similar, but definitely not the same. That phrase can be applied to every performance by The Twilight Sad that I have had the pleasure to experience and on hearing this, their fourth album; I can confirm that it continues to apply to their recorded output as well.
The “folk with layers of noise” description that has been attributed to the band themselves is valid but does not even begin to describe what this band brings to their recordings, or to the live stage. Anyone who is in any way familiar with their live work cannot fail to see the image of James Graham in their minds eye, lit by a solitary beam of light with fists clenched, from the first words of There’s A Girl In The Corner, the opening track on Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. It is an emotional response and in many ways this characterises the effect that their songs have on many, many people.
When the Band released their previous album, No One Can Ever Know, there was a bit of a hullaballoo regarding a change of direction. The band had gone all techno, all electronic. Of course that was not the case at all. What they had done was matured, experimented, and added a lot of new colours, tones and instrumentation to what was already a highly distinctive sound.
For this new album they have done it again. These songs are the next step on an evolutionary path, vocally more distinct and perhaps made to be more accessible, but without compromising the essence of what makes them a special band. The guitar, keyboards and drums are distinctive and the vocals lyrical and mournful, all staples of The Twilight Sad but the feel is different. The vocal is unmistakable but in a weird way more remote, with more echo. This adds to the general sombre mood.
The difficult subject matter is all there, typified by the titles of the songs alone. They have always had the knack of conveying the feel of their songs through the titles ever since 2007 with their first single, That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy. Drown So I Could Watch, Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep and Pills I Swallow, along with the title track, leave little doubt as to the content and direction of the lyrics.
What also remains is the “noise”. You just know through the opening bars of Leave the House that at some point the lid will come off and the signature guitar will explode into the song, only to tail off for the low-key ending. Impressive on the recording this may be, but you know that it will be huge live.
It’s reassuring that the band has stayed true to the path that they started on with Fourteen Summers & Fifteen Winters and through the next albums. They could easily have gone down the populist anthem route like others have. I can’t see that the LG Arena beckons for them as a consequence, but that matters little, although in my opinion they ought to be absolutely massive. These songs are meant to be heard live in a room packed with people, not a barn or a hanger, and the special presence of James Graham and his friends needs to be experienced in close quarters, as it is on this album.
Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave is released on 27th October 2014 on Fat Cat Records
Words: Ian Gelling
Photograph – James Graham at the Hare and Hounds: Stephanie Colledge